Pennsylvania's I-99 Corridor is home to sophisticated, tech-driven advanced manufacturing companies with rich roots in the region and much potential for growth.
Innovation is baked into the culture at McClanahan Corp. a 175-year-old manufacturer based in Hollidaysburg that makes aggregate, mineral and agricultural equipment used in industries as diverse as food and paper production, coal and metals mining, and energy exploration. McClanahan machinery has a presence around the globe, but its operations are deeply rooted in the I-99 Corridor region.
“The community is so much a part of us – and we are such a part of it,” says Michael McClanahan, board chairman and fifth-generation owner of one of the nation’s oldest family businesses.
Started in 1835 by James Craig McClanahan, the company has evolved from a foundry producing cast-iron casings for plows and other machinery used by local farmers into a global leader of custom-engineered equipment.
McClanahan’s great-grandfather, Samuel Calvin McLanahan, introduced the first machines into the company in the late 1800s, inventing equipment such as the log washer and single roll crusher to improve processing of iron ore from its quarries. The company still sells those products, along with an ever-growing line of new patented equipment that ranges from sustainable manure management systems for farms to wastewater recycling filter presses for mining sites.
Its location along the I-99 Corridor and proximity to major interstates and the Port of Baltimore has allowed the manufacturer to keep up with growing demand for its machinery.
“The I-99 Corridor is extremely important in providing us with the ability to ship equipment at low costs to ports for exporting to other states and countries,” McClanahan says.
Logistics advantages combined with skilled craftsmanship and technological innovation are driving advanced manufacturing across the three-county region, where more than 13,000 people are employed in an industry sector that includes leading precision metals and advanced materials production.
Blair Cos., another longtime manufacturer in the region, was launched as a small electrical contracting business in Altoona more than 50 years ago and has diversified to become a leading fabricator of signs, architectural elements, fixtures, kiosks and lighting for major chain stores. The company also has ownership in other ventures, including State College-based Chemcut Corp., which produces wet processing equipment for such uses as nameplate engraving, printed circuit board etching and specialized glass processing for flat-panel and touch-screen displays. Another Blair company is Tyrone-based American Eagle Paper Products, which processes high-quality, chlorine-free paper from recovered fibers.
Albemarle Corp.’s Fine Chemistry Services division launched a $30 million expansion in 2013 – its third in Blair County. Bedford-based MDL Manufacturing also recently increased capacity at its facility, which produces metal and non-metal hardware for military, defense and commercial applications. Its customers include top defense firms like Oskosh, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Boeing.
Defiance Metal Products in Bedford County is a full-service metal stamper, fabricator and painter of medium volume components and assemblies for military and commercial vehicles, construction equipment and agricultural equipment. Another Bedford County manufacturer, Rex Heat Treat, provides heat treating services for industries ranging from aerospace to automotive to construction.
Since spinning off from chromatography equipment maker Restek in 2009, Bellefonte-based SilcoTek has racked up more than 25 patents and developed high-performance, silicon-based coatings for stainless steel, glass and ceramic parts that expand the material limits in everything from medical diagnostic equipment to oil rigs to analytical instruments aboard space shuttles.
Source for Innovation, Talent
Founder Paul Silvis attributes the startup’s success to resources like Penn State University that provide companies with tools and expertise to innovate. SilcoTek’s scientists collaborate with university researchers and use its sophisticated surface analysis equipment to tackle customer quandaries.
“When we can’t figure out the problem, Penn State’s scientists help us formulate a solution,” Silvis says. “Our partnership with them has been critical to our rapid growth rate.”
The 37-person company also draws most of its scientists and engineers from the university, as does McClanahan, whose engineers typically hold Penn State degrees. The Greater Altoona Career and Technical Center provides McClanahan with well-trained welders and fabricators, and the I-99 Corridor puts it within a seven-county labor market and a robust network of suppliers.
While this access is beneficial, what keeps McClanahan operating in the region is the legacy its 315 local employees have helped the company build, Mike McClanahan says.
“We have high-quality employees who have been part of our business for three, four and five generations,” he says. “They have committed their careers to us – and we are committed to them.”