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Canadian steel company eyes former Bethlehem site; Welded Tube may bring life to brownfield

A Canadian company's plan to locate a new steel manufacturing facility in Lackawanna would bring more than 100 jobs and industrial activity to the former Bethlehem Steel site for the first time in decades.

Welded Tube of Canada, a private firm based in Concord, Ont., wants to use 45 acres of the long-dormant Bethlehem Steel site for a $48 million, 109,000-square-foot facility where flat steel can be cold-formed into rounded tubing.

Company representatives briefly spelled out the plan Wednesday afternoon during a meeting of the Lackawanna Planning and Development Board.

The board voted unanimously to declare its intent to be the lead governmental agency as the company does an environmental review required by state law.

Welded Tube also has applied for tax incentives from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

"ECIDA and other partners have been working with the company for quite a while," said John Cappellino, ECIDA executive vice president and the agency's director of business development. "At the end of the day, this looks like the site that holds the most promise for them."

Welded Tube takes flat steel and forms it into round tubing 4 1/2 to 9 5/8 inches in diameter, in custom lengths. The tubes mostly are used by companies in the energy industry or for structural purposes, according to Robert Pike, Welded Tube vice president.

After being manufactured in Lackawanna, the tubes would be sent to Welded Tube facilities in Welland and Port Colborne, Ont., for hydrotesting and finishing.

"We want to have a U.S. presence, and, strategically, it works with our existing operation in Welland," Pike said.

Welded Tube's $48 million investment would include the building, equipment and machinery.

The building would be about 40 feet tall and located 1,500 feet from Route 5. Ten acres of the site would be used for outdoor storage of steel tube.

Adam Walters, an attorney with Phillips Lytle, the law firm representing the company in its planning and environmental review, told the board Wednesday that Welded Tube had an "aggressive construction schedule" and expected to have the Lackawanna facility open and operating within six months of receiving the proper approvals.

After the meeting, Pike said that the company hoped to have the facility operating by the second quarter of 2013.

Initially, Welded Tube would employ about 25 people at the new facility. The number is expected to more than triple within five years.

"Our business plan is to grow to approximately 121 employees for a three-shift operation," Pike said.

The former Bethlehem Steel site, currently owned by Tecumseh Development, is still considered a brownfield.

Welded Tube's plan includes remediation of the acreage it will be using, Walters said.

Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski said he was excited about the opportunity to welcome industry back to a site that's been dormant -- aside from windmills built on the property -- since the Bethlehem Steel plant closed in 1983.

The new facility's precision machining works should bring decent-paying jobs to Lackawanna, he added.