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Former Amazon Exec to Build $81M Advanced Manufacturing Park in Pittsburgh Area

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On May 1, 2023, Pennsylvania’s Governor, Josh Shapiro, along with various other state officials and members of Pittsburgh’s business community, held a press conference at the Steelers’ Acrisure Stadium to announce an $81 million investment in a new advanced manufacturing park. Located in the Pittsburgh suburb of New Kensington, PA, the industrial complex will be operated by Re:Build Manufacturing, a company co-founded by Jeff Wilke, the former CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer.

Wilke, who grew up in Pittsburgh, is also the chairman of Re:Build, which is aiming to set the tone for the next century of contract manufacturing and industrial engineering. Symbolically, the 175,000-square-foot New Kensington facility is located on the site of a factory closed down in 1971 by Alcoa, the U.S. aluminum giant, although, more recently, Siemens operated a facility at the location. The complex — which, in all, totals about a million square feet — hasn’t been fully utilized since it was abandoned by Alcoa.

Like other, similar ventures, Re: Build aims to serve the full gamut of high-value manufacturing markets with a comprehensive set of solutions for supply chain disruptions. The key differentiator with Re: Build is simply that there is such an overwhelming amount of social and financial capital involved.

Thus, given Re: Build’s grand ambitions, it seems reasonable to assume that the company has picked a site that already has ample room built-in for potential expansion. Re: Build’s success would clearly be pivotal for the area, and the New Kensington project has already attracted almost $20 million in grants and loans from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The company also has the backing of Thomas Tull, the billionaire founder of Legendary Entertainment who now runs Tulco LLC, an AI-based investment firm headquartered in Pittsburgh.

Image courtesy of Re: Build

In a press release announcing Re: Build’s first advanced manufacturing facility, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, said, “Making our commonwealth a leader in innovation, job creation, and economic development is a top priority for my Administration, and we stand ready to continue making projects like this one possible. The funding increases in my budget will help us attract more companies like Re: Build that want to come to Pennsylvania and help retain the growing businesses that are already here — and we will continue to drive innovation on a global scale.” Wilke explained, “Growing up in the heartland, I experienced firsthand the impacts of the rise and fall of manufacturing on the well-being of our country. …The new facility in New Kensington is a major milestone in this journey, helping to revitalize an area once central to American industry and bringing back much needed, sustainable jobs.”

Rendering courtesy of RIDC

I wrote yesterday about the push from both the US and Chinese governments for the acceleration of advanced manufacturing clusters. Given that the industrial park Neighborhood 91 is also located in Pittsburgh — and is being supported by some of the same civic organizations that are involved in Neighborhood 91 — Pittsburgh appears to be evolving into the center of the first fully-fledged advanced manufacturing cluster in the US.

From an analytical perspective, it means that this is one of the best laboratories to watch the model for the future of the global economy materialize. In more concrete terms, for manufacturing businesses, it carries innumerable potential implications related to the shifting logistics of newly forming supply chains, both domestic and international. 

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