EDITORIAL: 'Springfield shuffle' brings mostly good news to Grove City area

May 3—THANKS to a worldwide reach and a longtime presence in the community, there are few institutions more readily associated with Grove City than Wendell August Forge.

The Wendell August Forge production facility moved to Grove City in 1932 — nine years after it was founded in Jefferson County, Pa. After fire destroyed the Grove City forge in 2010, Wendell August moved to its current site off Route 208 in Springfield Township.

Wendell August Forge's metal ornaments adorn Christmas trees around the United States and across the world. It has an exclusive contract with the NFL to design metalcrafted gifts, and its college licenses include Pitt, Penn State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Grove City College, West Virginia and Youngstown State.

It also offers Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh city skyline ornaments, and issued a special "Stronger Than Hate" ornament as a fundraiser for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in 2018.

The forge building was a popular stop for school field trips and tours that introduced new generations of visitors to the company's work.

Because of the company's history, the worldwide reach of its product and its identification with the community, it was a little sad to learn this week that Wendell August Forge's production operations will leave not only the Grove City area but also Mercer County.

But only just a little bit sad.

There's more cause for celebration.

The impact of Wendell August Forge's departure, in terms of its Grove City identity, is more symbolic than concrete. Company administration said the forge will continue operations later this year when it moves production to Slippery Rock, just across the line in Butler County.

More importantly, no jobs will be lost.

And Wendell August Forge will still maintain a Mercer County presence — its factory store is moving in July to the Grove City Premium Outlets mall in a natural nod to the company's history that will put its products in front of thousands of people every day

Even though Wendell August Forge's renowned wares will no longer be made in Mercer County, to play on Penn-Northwest Development Corporation's marketing slogan, "Make it in Mercer County, Pennsylvania."

Which brings us to the other players — Penn-Northwest and Moretto USA Corp. — in this Springfield Shuffle saga.

Wendell August Forge won't remain empty for long, if at all.

Moretto USA SpA, an Italian company that manufactures machinery that helps companies produce plastic products, is going to move from a 24,000 sq. ft. factory in Jackson Township to the 52,000 sq. ft. center now occupied by Wendell August Forge.

The company has been a success story that likely would have remained untold had it not been for Wendell August Forge's move. When Moretto USA arrived in Mercer County two years ago, it had five employees.

It now has 30, with prospects to increase its workforce by 50%, according to reporting Thursday by Herald Business Editor Michael Roknick.

With plastic production ramping up just down Interstate 376 at the Shell ethane "cracker" plant, demand for plastic production may be about to boom, which means demand for Moretto's products could follow.

And Moretto might have gone looking beyond Mercer County's boundaries, had it not been for the opportunity presented by Wendell August Forge's decision.

Gene Flockerzi, general manager for Moretto USA, credited Penn-Northwest Development Corp. for its assistance in cutting a deal for the company to move into Wendell August Forge's factory.

That's no small thing. While economic development agencies build a profile on splash events, success more often comes out of behind-the-scenes negotiations and dealmaking, and the confluence of events like one business vacating a factory to make room for another.

For more than 90 years, Wendell August Forge's production center was a high-profile part of the Grove City-area community. And, even as its store remains in the area, the factory's departure leaves behind a void in our hearts.

But retaining a company poised for growth will more than cushion that blow.