BY SHAWN A. HESSINGER
Tamaqua Bureau Chief
TAMAQUA - A new shop specializing in a rarely used technique for preparing stainless steel products used in the pharmaceutical, biotech and semi-conductor industries should be up and running within weeks.
Fabrication Concepts Inc. could employ up to eight machinists and unskilled operators by next year. It will be one of the only shops in the country doing electropolishing of stainless steel, a process making the final product less susceptible to bacterial contamination, on one of the borough's most recently approved Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ) sites, company President Charles D. Brown said.
"Stainless steel is very porous, so bacteria can get into those pores and grow," Brown said.
The electropolishing process brings out nickel and iron, leaving behind ultra-hard, smooth chromium oxide.
"We'll take a piece of dull stainless steel and make it as shiny as a chrome bumper," Brown said.
Although the process has been around for years, it is only in the last decade that its importance has been recognized for improving sanitary conditions in the pharmaceutical and food service industries, Brown said.
By contrast, the semi-conductor industry has long relied on the process.
Not only is Brown's new shop one of the few nationally to specialize in the electropolishing process, it is also one of the first to perform fabrication, machining and finishing at the same location.
In many existing electropolishing operations, fabrication and machining are done elsewhere, resulting in less control over the quality of the final product.
The company is currently leasing a 6,000-square-foot building on nine acres off Route 209 opposite the Jamesway Plaza.
The property was recently designated part of a new Tamaqua Keystone Opportunity Expansion subzone.
The zone extends benefits, including waiving real estate tax.
The waiving of state corporate income and sales and use tax are the only benefits the company will so far be able to take advantage of as a tenant, said Gerald L. Heffner, vice president of the Schuylkill Economic Development Corporation.
But Brown said an additional 6,000 square feet of shop space is also available on the property for possible expansion.
The company may consider purchasing the property at some future date