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Workers wonder about city’s future

News that Intermet-Ironton Iron will shut down left workers stunned at shift change Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday, December 08, 1999

News that Intermet-Ironton Iron will shut down left workers stunned at shift change Tuesday afternoon.

"We had heard there might be layoffs, but this was a real surprise," said Becky Turley, as she bought snacks at Bragg’s Chevron across the street from the plant. "Of course, nobody believed it when the Malleable shut the doors, either."

Ironton Iron posted closure notices in every department just before lunch, said Ms. Turley, an eight-year veteran of the I-beam line.

Employees had heard rumors about the plant’s closing, but thought they were just that, rumors, because it’s contract time, she said.

"We heard the same thing last year, too, but it came true this time," said Tony Ray, a seven-year employee.

The company has been subcontracting plant work in recent years, and local workers cannot be blamed for the shutdown, Ms. Turley said.

"Now, the company’s made their money and they’re leaving," she said. "It ain’t right."

Gene Bragg, owner of Bragg’s Chevron, said his business will feel the effect of Ironton Iron’s leavetaking.

"I’ll tell you one thing, you’re not going to be bringing many of those in here anymore," Bragg told a Dolly Madison truck driver, who was delivering snack cakes at lunchtime.

"It’s just going to devastate the whole town," Bragg said. "We’re not talking about (619) individuals, but (619) families here."

Other workers coming to the gas station’s lunch counter at the 2 p.m. shift change traded information and discussed what will happen at shutdown.

"It’s just sad," Delbert Dixon said. "Seven years of my life is right there. Now, they tell us we’ve got 60 days and we’ve got to look again."

The reality of severance negotiations and unemployment lines has not sunk in yet among most employees, though, melt operator Shane Runyon said.

"I’m not a homeowner, so it would be easy for me to go elsewhere and find another job," Runyon said.

In fact, the five-and-a-half-year employee has already been looking – either at plants in Indiana or Florida.

"But, for a lot of people, it will be rough on them and their families to give up a job with good pay, benefits and insurance," Runyon said. "Sure, there have been times I didn’t really like my job either. But times are getting rough and now many more people will find out how tough the job market really is."

Most will probably look outside Ironton for future work, if they can look for work at all, Dixon said.

"I really feel sorry for the 50- and 60-year-old employees," Dixon said, adding that it will be hard for them to switch careers at this point.

Employees like Rocky Jones, who has worked at the plant for five and a half years as a fork lift driver, are saddened by the shutdown, but are looking forward.

"The only thing I’ve got to say is I’m going to let the Lord lead," he said.

Jones said he’s also young enough to move on, and is only worried about others.

"These guys can put out good products and I’d like to see another business move in and give them an opportunity to show they can do the job," he said.

Runyon said there has been talk of another company making a bid on the plant, but supervisors and plant officials began talking about severance packages Tuesday afternoon.

"You think Ironton’s a ghost town now, wait until they shut this plant down," he said.