Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Green Construction Tech Company to Open First US Production Facility in Pennsylvania

 Nexii, a Canadian green construction technology company with lofty ambitions of revolutionizing commercial real estate in an eco-friendly way, is set to open its newest manufacturing center in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, this spring, its first in the United States.

Its plant will produce a synthetic construction material called Nexiite, which Nexii hopes will replace concrete as the go-to product in commercial real estate development. Once fully operational, the plant is slated to create more than 180 new jobs and produce more than 8 million square feet of building panels every year, serving projects across the northeastern United States. The plant will be operated by Pennsylvania's John Wolfington and NEXUS-1 through Nexii’s Certified Manufacturing program.

Concrete might be ubiquitous with construction, but it’s not great for the environment. Creating it requires heating limestone to extraordinarily high temperatures, and coal is often used as the fuel. Since coal is essentially the solid form of carbon, the industry releases quite a bit of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

"Our carbon footprint compares very favorably to steel and concrete," said Gregor Robertson, Nexii’s executive vice president of strategy and partnership and former Mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia. "Using Nexiite results in a 43% drop in a property's carbon footprint and Nexiite can be used in all types of construction projects."

Nexii has already invested $56 million into its plants and said that production orders at its existing facilities in Canada are booked for years. The firm is also building another Nexiite plant in British Columbia. Robertson is also optimistic that more growth is in the future.

"We're very bullish on green technologies and President Biden is clearly signaling that fighting climate change will take on an increased importance in the coming years," he said.

Nexii’s arrival is certainly positive news for Hazleton and for the greater Scranton market. Northeast Pennsylvania was built around coal, manufacturing and trucking. The decline of the first two kneecapped the local economy for generations, but the presence of the third still creates some interesting commercial real estate opportunities for the struggling region.

If Nexiite is going across the country, there are few locations in the United States better suited to get it there. The Scranton market is within a few hours drive of every major port on the northeastern shore. It also has a deep base of blue-collar workers, as well as several tax incentives designed to lure in manufacturers.

This has made Scranton a keystone of Pennsylvania logistics, and Robertson specifically mentioned the region’s labor pool and logistics reach as primary reasons behind the company's decision to locate within the market. There is no shortage of major shipping tenants here, and Scranton posted some of the state’s strongest levels of industrial absorption, the difference between move-ins and move-outs, through 2020.

Robertson believes that the region’s logistics capacities could entice more manufacturers to the area; Nexii is not the only international firm looking at the region. Last October, Kanji Yamanouchi, the ambassador consulate of Japan, reached out to Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown to request a tour of the area.

Yamanouchi spent a day sight-seeing and told local reporters that he was impressed with the region’s potential and hoped that Luzerne County could be a spot for Japanese manufacturers.

Brown is optimistic, too.

"We’re turning it around up here," Brown said. "Mark my words, one day, Wilkes-Barre will be the country’s capital of innovation."

While that claim may be so audacious that trying to fact-check is a moot point, and the height of his ambition seems unlikely at the moment, fighting climate change is starting to become more important. And right now, northeast Pennsylvania is at the front of the charge.

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