Air Products finalized Piney Point purchase for new plant

jsalman@bradenton.comNovember 16, 2012 

PALMETTO -- Air Products in Chemicals Inc. has completed its purchase of more than 30 acres of the former Piney Point property adjacent to Port Manatee, clearing the way for a new manufacturing plant that will employ 250 area workers.

The Pennsylvania company that builds machines to liquefy natural gas announced plans for the Piney Point acquisition this summer, but the deal was stymied by issues that linger from a toxic spill there last year and bankruptcy case surrounding Piney Point owner HRK Holdings LLC.

Air Products acquired the site this week for just under $6 million, records show.

"This plant will provide additional capacity which is needed to stay ahead of the increasing market demand, and allow the manufacture of larger LNG heat exchangers for customers around the world," Jim Solomon, director of LNG at Air Products, said in a statement. "Readily available port access removes the major shipping constraints we had previously faced with this larger equipment."

Air Products makes liquid natural gas heat exchangers. The equipment is sold to facilities in rural areas that want to convert natu

ral gas into liquid for trucking shipments when other transportation for the commodity is unavailable.

The company already has filed a permit application with Manatee County that calls for six buildings totaling 350,000 square feet, with parking and a storm water management system on the Piney Point property. The site also is allocated for the eventual construction of a seventh building, records show.

Air Products has declined to release an estimated cost for the new facility.

The company said it will begin hiring up to 250 workers in a four-year ramp up, with operations expected to start by 2014. Another 120 jobs also will be created during construction.

Air Products will receive $1.75 million in performance-based incentives from the state and another $680,000 from Manatee County if all of the jobs promised are realized. The county also approved a transportation impact fee incentive valued at $46,876.

In fiscal year 2012, Air Products notched sales approaching $10 billion.

Under HRK's watch, a liner in the gypsum stack reservoirs at the Piney Point property storing material from Port Manatee's Berth 12 dredging project last year sprung leaks, spilling 170 million gallons of toxic water into Bishop Harbor.

The Air Products sale also will spring a loan to HRK that had been awaiting the closing, which will send the Florida Department of Environmental Protection $2.5 million for site clean up.

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman

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