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Published: Wednesday, 8/18/2004

Alcoa to shut its parts plant in Northwood

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Alcoa Inc. of Pittsburgh stunned United Auto Workers leaders yesterday by abruptly announcing the shutdown of its Northwood factory by year s end.

I was shocked, but a lot of the workers I talked to said they saw it coming because the plant wasn t bringing in any work, said Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, which represents the hourly workers.

A company spokesman said the aluminum-parts maker will meet with local and state officials about opportunities to sell the Wood County plant. Mr. Baumhower said he welcomes that thought, hoping to get a supplier to Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant in the 117,000 square foot factory.

DaimlerChrysler AG plans a $2.1 billion investment in Toledo Jeep, adding two new vehicle models, and expects a flood of new suppliers for the work. I m hopeful we can get somebody in there, Mr. Baumhower said of the Alcoa building that can be seen on the east side of I-75, near the Wales Road interchange.

The Pittsburgh company said the plant, built in 1995 for $30 million, was operating at less than full capacity for some time and that was not expected to change. The firm tried unsuccessfully to sell the factory about five years ago to focus on marketing technology rather than building parts.

The decision to close this facility was a difficult one and in no way reflects negatively on the efforts of our dedicated workforce, Eric Winter, vice president of Alcoa Advanced Transportation Systems, said in a statement.

Unfortunately, the excess capacity in our system and the specific capabilities of this facility made this move necessary.

The factory made windshield frames, steering components, and other aluminum parts for all the major auto manufacturers. It was expected to be successful because automakers were to be looking to such lightweight, yet strong materials to help make cars more fuel efficient.

But Mr. Baumhower said the work had diminished to supplying brackets for Volkwagen convertibles and General Motors Envoy retractable roofs, as well as engine brackets for another car.

More than 20 workers already were on lay off, the union leader said. The UAW represents about 88 workers at the facility, he said. Workers were told by Mr. Winter that the firm wasn t after reduced wages or concessions to the union contract, but simply didn t have enough work, Mr. Baumhower said.

Work will wind down over the next four months, an Alcoa spokesman said. Employees will be offered severance and other assistance, the company said.

Alcoa was lured to Northwood by an incentive package of almost $7 million, including a low-interest state loan, roads, water, and sewer work, and waived taxes. It also received a job-retention abatement in 2001 that was to last through 2006.

Contact Jon Chavez at:jchavez@theblade.comor 419-724-6128.



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