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Intermet to decide plant’s fate

As the negotiations for a new contract between the nearly 600 Intermet-Ironton Iron employees and plant officials near a January deadline, rumors surrounding the plant’s possible closure have increased.

Tuesday, December 07, 1999

As the negotiations for a new contract between the nearly 600 Intermet-Ironton Iron employees and plant officials near a January deadline, rumors surrounding the plant’s possible closure have increased.

Intermet corporate communications manager Mike Kelly declined to comment on the possible closure, but did confirm that the company will make a major announcement at about 4 p.m. today.

"We have no comment at this time," Kelly said. "It is our intention to send out a release to the press at about 4 p.m. today."

Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Pat Clonch, as well as members of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, reportedly met with plant officials this morning.

When asked about the meeting, Kelly refused to discuss the topic.

Kelly also said he could not comment until after 4 p.m. today on the reasons why several requests from Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary’s office for a meeting about the closure rumors have been delayed and denied.

In February, the company reported 592 hourly and salaried employees with a total payroll in excess of $25 million.

Losing that kind of income tax revenue would hit the city hard, especially on the heels of Cabletron Systems Inc.’s closure earlier this year, as well as jobs lost through AlliedSignal and Ashland Inc. cutbacks, Cleary said.

"I would think it would be accurate to say that the city receives the major amount of income tax from the employees that work there," Cleary said. "And, with a business like that, the spinoff of it for all the other businesses in town is also very relevant."

If the company were to close its doors, the effects would be city-wide, he added.

"We would have to take an emergency look at our budget," he said. "Although the budget would not reflect the loss for several months, we would have to plan for the loss of income. It would be a matter of cutting our expenditures to match our income."

As of presstime, Cleary said that without official notification to the City of Ironton, however, the rumors are still just that.

"We have received no notification whatsoever that the plant is closing," Cleary said. "When AlliedSignal made their cutbacks, and also when Cabletron closed, the city received the required notification –  it’s called a WARN Act notice, and I have received no such notification from Ironton Iron."

But, no notification is necessary during the decision-making process, Cleary confirmed.

Meanwhile, Cleary said he will continue to make attempts at communication with the plant managers.

"I’ve got a call in today to see if I can get with them and see if there is any truth to the rumors, and if so, if there is anything we can do as a city to help keep them here; keep the jobs here," he said. "It would certainly be another devastating blow this year to the city to have another major employer pull out."

The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners also has received no notification of the possible closure, commissioner George Patterson said, adding that he also hopes for the chance to meet with plant officials to find a way to keep the jobs in the county.

– Tribune news editor Allen Blair contributed to this report.