Investors buy Cerro Metals site

By Cliff White — State College – Centre Daily Times

New industry will be coming to the former home of Cerro Metals in Spring Township.

Navitus LLC, an investment group composed of local companies Shaner Capital LP and G.M. McCrossin, as well as British equity firm Hadleigh Assets, recently purchased the 173-acre site in Spring Township. The group plans to refurbish the site and reopen it as a business park.

The newly named Titan Energy Park will be marketed primarily but not exclusively to the natural gas industry and its booming activity in the Marcellus Shale, said Eddie Lauth, CEO of State College-based Shaner Capital LP, which is owned by Lance Shaner, also the chairman of the board of Rex Energy, an oil and gas production company.

“It’s got lots of space, rail siding, a waste energy plant, a sewage treatment plant, and an abundance of spring water,” Lauth said. “We think it’s a very unique site and a great opportunity for investors to create jobs in the area.”

Terms of the deal were not made available, and a deed of sale had not yet been filed with the county. The 12 parcels included in the Feb. 2 sale had a combined estimated value of around $2 million, according to the last Centre County tax assessment performed in 1994.

Originally the site of the Belle Fonte Forge until 1815, the property along Axemann Road and on both sides of the Logan Branch became Titan Metals in 1915. Titan soon became Centre County’s largest industry and the only facility in Pennsylvania producing brass rods. During World War II, the company produced almost 20 percent of all the brass rods and forgings manufactured in the United States.

In the early 1960s, Titan was renamed Cerro Copper and Brass Co. The company employed around 700 people in 1997. After downsizing due to globalization, Cerro sold out to Bolton Metal Products, which ran the company for less than a year before closing the Centre County facility in 2008, eliminating more than 280 jobs.

Gary Hoover, the president of the Bellefonte Intervalley Chamber of Commerce, said he was excited to see industrial life return to the site.

“The chamber’s always in favor of anything going to increase business and provide jobs and employment in Bellefonte,” he said. “I think it’s a good move to make better use of that facility.”

The parcels in the deal contain several industrial structures, with almost 610,000 square feet under roof, according to Bob Leahey, president of Bellefontebased construction firm G.M. McCrossin.

“The great part about (the purchase) is the fact that there’s a lot of constructed space and a lot of the up-front capital costs have already been expended and depreciated, so the value of it is very good,” he said.

Leahey said the deal came more than a year ago when his firm and Shaner Capital discovered each was looking to purchase the properly independently. The partnership led to a joint investment in November in Hydro Recovery, an operator of water treatment facilities servicing the gas industry.

There’s a chance the group will look into opening a Hydro Recovery facility at the new business park, Leahey said. At the very least, G.M. McCrossin will use part of the property to expand its foundations division. The lease of the one business already operating on-site, Vital Chemical, will be honored, Leahey said.

Leahey said Navitus eventually plans to develop the entire 174-acre parcel. Around 40 acres already contain either buildings or asphalt lots, and much of the remainder is woodlands.

Cliff White can be reached at 235-3928.