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Published: Saturday, 4/9/2005

Sandusky County tries to save TRW


FREMONT - Officials around Sandusky County hope they will be able to reverse the decision by TRW Automotive's Kelsey-Hayes subsidiary to close its brake-components factory in Kingsway by the end of next year, putting 270 employees out of work.

Kay Reiter, executive director of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corp., said yesterday that a team of officials will meet Monday with TRW representatives.

"I'm always optimistic," she said. "We'll see what can be done to turn this announcement around TRW has always been an excellent employer in our county."

Gerald Gonya, chairman of the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County, said, "Anytime you lose jobs, there's going to be a trickle-down effect. This will be felt countywide."

Mr. Gonya, co-owner of Harvey Oaks Jewelers in Fremont, said many plant workers live in adjacent counties.

TRW said Thursday it doesn't have enough volume to support the plant midway between Fremont and Oak Harbor, and it plans to consolidate brake-rotor production at other plants in North and South America. A leader of the United Steelworkers of American union that represents workers declined to comment.

Manley Ford, a TRW spokesman in Livonia, Mich., said the plant will be open until December, 2006, because it has contracts to satisfy. The firm will work with the union on retraining programs and other job assistance, he said.

Terry Overmyer, Fremont's four-term mayor, said, "It's always disturbing to hear about a business closing. This one affects the families of 270 people." He said he is not optimistic TRW officials will change their mind, but he believes jobs can be found for most of the workers.

Even though the county's unemployment rate is about 8 percent, the mayor believes the area is diversified. "We're not tied to one industry," he said.

Gary Hasselbach, owner of Hasselbach Meats Inc., a store and meat-processing facility across the road from the TRW plant, is among those hoping for the best.

"We would miss them," he said of the plant's workers. "Many of them are regular customers."

In the 1970s, the former Kelsey-Hayes Co. employed about 600 at its Kingway plant and a foundry in Fremont. But in 1996, the firm, then known as VarityKelsey-Hayes, closed the 132-year-old foundry, displacing 205 workers. At the time, Kelsey-Hayes was among the county's top employers.

In 1999, TRW acquired the parent company, London-based LucasVarity PLC. TRW spent $8.7 million to upgrade its Kingsway plant as recently as 2003, Ms. Reiter said.

Contact Homer Brickey at:


or 419-724-6129.

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