Shaud El operates a milling machine at Conturo Prototyping. Photo by Ann Belser.

John Conturo has found a new place to expand his machine shop: Westmoreland County.

Conturo, the owner of Conturo Prototyping, submitted a proposal to buy the Homewood Coliseum, move his machine shop from the Lexington Technology Park to the building, and expand the business from 25 to 32 employees.

Since the building is so large, Conturo had also offered to provide space for the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center, which provided machinist training and was once located in Homewood but moved to Titusville in Crawford County.

But the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh rejected Conturo’s proposal just as it also rejected a competing bid to once again use the building as a roller rink.

Conturo Prototyping’s current location — where they have made the feet for the lunar lander that will be part of NASA’s Artemis mission to the moon and the wheels for the lunar rover — is too small to accommodate the growth of the company.

In 2019, Conturo purchased a building in Wilkinsburg that he later deemed to be too small, but is now factoring into the company’s growth plan.

Instead of just buying a new building, Conturo is buying an entire machine shop that currently employs six people in Westmoreland County. That business, he says, was going to close because the owner wanted to retire. Instead, Conturo is buying the building, and all of the machines and tools and plans to increase the number of workers there to 10 or 15 in the short term, and possibly employ up to 25 people eventually.

Once Conturo closes on the Westmoreland County location, he will move some of the projects from the Point Breeze North shop to Westmoreland County so that the equipment in Point Breeze North can be moved to Wilkinsburg without losing too much productivity. Conturo Prototyping will employ 20 to 25 people at the Wilkinsburg location.

“A lot of my key workers live here in the East End,” he says. “By keeping a presence here, I am accommodating my folks in the East End of Pittsburgh. The shop we’re buying has been around for 40 years. Some of their folks there have years of experience. That shop was likely going to close.”

John Conturo, owner of Conturo Prototyping, stands in his shop at the Lexington Technology Park in Point Breeze North. Photo by Ann Belser.

Conturo had wanted to remain in Pittsburgh and expand his business entirely in the city, but his bid was rejected in October and he has not been able to find a site big enough to support the business. Instead, he will be just outside of the city limits in Wilkinsburg and further out in Westmoreland County.

With the two locations, he will have two labor pools and two customer bases, so he can expand the reach of the business.

“The business we’re buying has years’ worth of work to do already,” he says.

His plan is to close on the business in Westmoreland County by the end of April, renovate the Wilkinsburg building and then start moving next year, so that by the end of 2024, the shop will be completely out of Point Breeze North.

Ann Belser

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.