CHARLEROI – The groundbreaking was purely ceremonial Thursday afternoon. The gaggle of earthmovers navigating behind them had, literally, broken ground beforehand and continued to operate as the event unfolded.

Shovels went into the ground to welcome the next tenant at Alta Vista Business Park: Nine Energy Service, a Houston, Texas-based oil and gas company. Nine Energy has a regional office it has outgrown in Chartiers Township, near the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, and is now clearing land for new regional headquarters.

“We’re pretty pumped up,” said Ken Preston, president of US Wireline for Nine Energy. “The company has been here for seven years, and this will give us the opportunity to stay in the area. (The Chartiers site) has been great, but we had to look elsewhere for expansion.”

Once a sufficient amount of earth has been moved, Nine Energy will be building on 10 flat acres atop a high hill in the east end of the park. Plans call for a building with 38,000 square feet in which the current 125 employees will work, with space to accommodate an anticipated larger workforce later. Chris Whitlatch, chief executive officer of the Mon Valley Alliance, which oversees park operations, said a mid-2019 opening is projected.

This was the first groundbreaking at Alta Vista in five years. Nine Energy will be joining a park lineup that includes Progeny Systems Corp. (engineering), Weatherford Drilling (oil and gas) and Gardner Denver Nash (engineering). An estimated 600 are employed there.

Nine Energy provides a number of oil and gas services, but Preston said the company will focus solely on permitting at the Fallowfield site.

Preston, who works out of Fort Worth, Texas, smiled when he explained the genesis of Nine Energy’s name. “We want to let people know that we’re not perfect, but pretty good – we’ll get nine out of 10.”

That ratio would make anyone a winner, a subject broached by Pat O’Brien, one of the event’s speakers.

Paraphrasing Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker, O’Brien – president and CEO of Community Bank – called Nine Energy’s decision to move there a victory. “You plan to win, you prepare to win and you expect to win,” he said. “I’ll add that we want other people to win. This is a wonderful day to celebrate a win.”

Community Bank is partnering with cfsbank to finance the project. Alta Vista Investments IV is developing with New-Belle Construction of Belle Vernon.

This project is part of Phase II at Alta Vista, where Progeny became the first tenant in 2003. Whitlatch said about 60 acres of the 256-acre park is available for development, and there could soon be developments on development.

“We potentially have two or three projects to be announced in the next two to three months,” he said.

Thursday, it was Nine Energy’s day in the sun – and wind.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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