ASHTABULA — Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman visited Ashtabula Friday and made a stop at the Petmin offices in the Harbor for a meeting with local officials and company executives.

Petmin, a South African company, will build a more than $450 million plant at the Kinder Morgan Pinney Dock facility that could lead to several hundred construction jobs as well as more than 100 permanent, skilled jobs once complete in 2022.

When the project comes to fruition, it will be the first Petmin facility in the United States, Bradley Doig, president and CEO of Petmin USA, has said. The company evaluated 11 sites across the United States and Canada before choosing Ashtabula.

During Friday’s visit, Portman, along with Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere, county commissioners, Growth Partnership Executive Director Greg Myers and others, met with Petmin officials during a closed-door meeting. Petmin officials declined to discuss the visit or comment on the project afterward.

After the meeting in Petmin offices, Portman and local officials walked the steps to the top of the Harbor overlooking the docks with a view of the future site in the distance. The site is ideal for a project like Petmin and more, Myers said.

“From an economic development perspective, these are assets that other communities and states don’t have,” Myers said during the walk. “To be able to preserve our access for heavy commercial shipping is phenomenal. The rail infrastructure here that connects us to the rest of the world and with the development of energy, there’s all kinds of things we can do to leverage this asset to play into new industry segments that are evolving.”

Kurt Princic, Ohio Environmental Protection Industry District Chief, said Petmin will cause limited environmental impacts. The EPA has heard from residents worried the plant will take the area back to the years when industry was both a polluter of air and water, he said.

That will not be the case with this project, Princic said.

“We worked very closely with them, set up monthly meetings and issued air permits in February,” Princic said. “We’re very confident that the air permitting is protective.”

Brad Biro, Kinder Morgan terminal manager, said the site is a total of 310 acres and Petmin will use about 20 of those acres just west of an existing asphalt plant. Kinder Morgan can handle all kinds of products from iron ore to limestone and general cargo, Biro said.

Ships will unload piles of raw material required to be processed into pig iron. Pig iron is primarily used in speciality metallic castings found in cars, trucks, aerospace, trains, mining and construction equipment, oil wells, appliances, pipes, hydrants, wind turbines, nuclear plants, medical devices, defense products, toys and more.

The pig iron will be produced in a plant and would then be transferred on to barges for transport on the Great Lakes, Biro said.

Water discharged from the plant will be processed in the city’s treatment plant, Timonere said.

“The treatment facility is less than a thousand feet from where the plant is going to be,” Timonere said. “They’re just going to run a pipe right to our headwall and we’re going to process all that water. It’s going to save them from building their own plant and getting a permit to discharge directly. For the residents it’s also a safeguard because now we’re testing their water and the EPA is testing the water going out. It’s not like a company self-reporting on itself.”

Portman asked if the plant will be landlocked, but Myers said the plant could be designed to expand outwards. The only concern is that there will be about a 400-foot tower on the site, Timonere said.

However, Petmin executives have been very accommodating and receptive to the idea of “dressing up” the tower, Timonere said. They have also been willing to put radio communications on the tower for city safety services which Timonere said will help with communications in an area that has sometimes had issues.

After walking the Harbor, officials headed to Kent State University for a roundtable discussion about Great Lakes issues. After that meeting Portman said he was impressed with what he heard.

Although Portman was not directly involved with bringing the project to the city of Ashtabula, he said his office has been supportive of the idea and has tried to engage with JobsOhio along the way.

“I particularly like that they will use the latest technology and it’s not going to affect our air or water quality,” Portman said. “It will be complimentary to what is really the growing industry in this county which is tourism.”

Timonere said construction work could begin sometime in October. The city is also still working out the details of potential tax abatements for the company, he said.

“I’m sure there will be tax abatement and I know they’ve gotten job creation tax credits from the state,” Timonere said. “All those things still need to be finalized.”

It has been said the Petmin project will bring around 600 construction jobs to the area and more than 100 full-time jobs once the plant is up and running.

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