Former Packard plant targeted for new facility

WARREN – A former Warren resident who heads a company that builds automatic parking facilities around the world could combine locations in multiple states into a single facility, possibly targeted for the former Delphi Packard Electric plant on Dana Street.

Christopher Alan, founder of the Los Angeles-based Auto Park It Automatic Parking Systems, is expected to announce plans to bring his warehousing and manufacturing facilities to the 500,000-square-foot Packard facilities.

“Initial estimates are the Auto Park It LLC will bring 300 jobs in its first two to five years,” Mayor Doug Franklin said. “We have been told the number of jobs could grow as high as 1,000 over a 10-year period.”

Auto Park It LLC operates smaller facilities in four states. Alan is seeking to have everything done at a central location.

Alan, a real estate developer, became involved in creating an automatic parking system when he began searching for ways to provide enough parking in property he purchased across from Warner Bros. studio in California.

Alan partnered his firm, Dasher Lawless, with Omron Automation & Safety, Design Systems Inc., SEW Eurodrive, ConXtech, and others, to create Auto Park It. The company builds parking garages that take up a fraction of the space of traditional garages because the vehicles are parked in stalls and lifted with a fully automated system.

Alan recently signed a one-year lease with DiPaolo Industrial Development to begin the process that may allow him to open a manufacturing and storage facility in Warren, according to Sergio DiPaolo, owner of the property that formerly housed Delphi Packard. The company is working on a separate agreement to purchase the facility.

Alan, who started Auto Park It in 2009, is looking to make the former Packard Electric property the company’s headquarters both because he has a personal connection with the area and because having the company centrally located is expected to significantly reduce his costs.

“We were approached in April by a Real Estate company about leasing another site that I own, but that location was already contracted for sale,” DiPaolo said. “We asked if they were interested in looking at the Dana Street facility.”

DiPaolo Industrial Development LLC purchased Delphi Packard’s former headquarters in 2011 from the holding company that was formed after Delphi Packard Electric closed the then-nearly 800,000 square foot facility.

“There would not be this opportunity if the city was successful in getting these buildings torn down,” DiPaolo said, noting he had fought demolition orders placed on the buildings by city building officials. “This is the largest manufacturing facility on the city’s east side. I thought the buildings should be saved because I believed some company could come here, purchase them and bring in new jobs.”

DiPaolo said he had a deal in place with Alan in June, but he backed out because of what DiPaolo said was misinformation provided to the company. Alan, according to DiPaolo, once again approached him in September, and they negotiated a new deal at a lower price.

“The administration should not get any recognition for bringing in new jobs,” DiPaolo said. “The owner of the company came to and negotiated with me.”

Franklin said, however, the company has been working with an economic development team that includes the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation, Western Reserve Port Authority, the Trumbull County Planning Commission, Jobs Ohio and the city of Warren.

“The company has not asked for help from the city, but if they make a request we will do what we are able to do to make sure it will be able to open and bring in new jobs,” Franklin said.

In the meantime, the administration agreed to have extra police patrols around the buildings to secure it.

The company is expected to initially transfer its engineers from other locations to Warren. It also will warehouse equipment and materials at the former Packard plant.

“As it grows, it will hire employees living in the area,” Franklin said.

Dennis Blank, who is running against Franklin as an independent candidate for mayor, said he hopes the potential for hundreds of new jobs coming to the city is true.

“I have a certain amount of skepticism about this announcement,” he said. “We do have an 18-month due diligence period. Anything can happen during that time.”