Corp. decided to shut down plant

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 1999

The decision to close the Intermet foundry in Ironton was made on the corporate level at the company’s Troy, Mich.

Thursday, December 09, 1999

The decision to close the Intermet foundry in Ironton was made on the corporate level at the company’s Troy, Mich., headquarters, said R. Scott Bleeks, plant manager at Intermet/Ironton Iron.

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"This was not a local decision," he said.

Recent customer decisions to move casting work to other foundries was the overriding factor in this week’s decision, Bleeks explained, adding that pricing, delivery and quality issues also played critical roles.

"Our major customers felt it was in their best interests to move their products to other suppliers," he said. "Only a small quantity of parts are being moved to other Intermet facilities. In fact, Intermet’s foundries as a whole are at capacity."

Competing foundry companies were able to underbid prices currently charged by the Intermet/Ironton Iron plant, which means virtually all the facility’s work will be gone by early February.

With no work and the continuing financial losses suffered by the local plant, corporate officials had no choice but to close the foundry, Bleeks said.

"We shared the news with the workforce before the press release was announced yesterday afternoon," he explained. "It is a horrible task; however, it (employee notification) was well done because of the way it was organized with the union’s help."

Bleeks said union representatives asked plant officials if they could notify the 532 hourly employees. That request was approved, and on Tuesday morning, union officials met with employees. The plant also has 87 salaried employees.

"The reaction (from employees) was everything from ‘I expected it’ to disbelief," he said. "Of course, there were some pretty strong signs for a while that we were heading that way."

Bleeks said employees – both hourly and salaried – have been told that as other Intermet plants have openings, officials will work with interested individuals to help facilitate their moves.

"Having been in a somewhat similar situation before (at a non-Intermet plant), we will do everything in our power to help him or her move," he said. "The prime concern now has to be with the individuals and their families."

Closure is expected on Feb. 7, although it could be as long as Feb. 21.

"Closure will be totally based on when customers actually move their work," Bleeks explained. "There is a procedure they must go through to change suppliers. However, it would only be a limited time beyond Feb. 7, and it could be as early as the end of January."

The plant manager said union representatives have told company officials they are actively working to bring in potential buyers.

However, because of the plant’s age, a proper shutdown will be needed to ensure equipment will be in good working order if a new owner is found.

"If the plant is properly shut down, it could be started back up," Bleeks said. "It is not Intermet’s policy to leave things in such disarray that it can’t be restarted. It must be shut down in an orderly and controlled fashion."

Although foundry technology has moved at lightning speed, the equipment at the Ironton plant could still function adequately for a new owner, he said.

"Our molding machines are still what many companies are using," he said. "Our dry sand system machines are not produced any more, but they still are fairly current. The cleaning systems could do with a lot of upgrading because we still are doing that process manually."