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FOSTORIA - Janet Kraylek started working at what is now Indalex Aluminum Solutions Group in 1969 as soon as the nascent Fostoria factory began hiring women.
After a couple of years of doing whatever task managers asked of her, Ms. Kraylek settled in as a shipping clerk and performed the job for 34 years.
The 60-year-old Fostoria resident has a perfect safety record, not to mention perfect attendance for all but one year.
And for the last 15 years, she has lived next door, just 52 steps from the factory from which she figured she would retire.
Ms. Kraylek will not have that chance.
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The company will close the doors by July 31 on the Sandusky Street factory that makes aluminum parts for windows, doors, and other items.
"I don't know what I want to do - this has been my whole life for 36 years," Ms. Kraylek said yesterday not long after talking to some prospective employers at a job fair at the plant.
"I'll try anything," she added. "I'll definitely find something, I'm not real worried about that. I just hope the age [factor] doesn't hold me back."
Most workers at the plant were optimistic about finding work, despite the tough economy in parts of northwest Ohio.
Indalex, of Chicago, announced in March it would close the factory, which had 43 workers paid about $11 an hour on average.
The Fostoria factory's limited capabilities and the need for significant investment, not the quality of the workforce, led to the closure, said a company spokesman.
A couple of Indalex employees have found jobs elsewhere. Some will transfer to another Indalex factory.
Some plan to open businesses or go back to school, and state assistance is available for training, said Ken Kuchar of Scherer Schneider Paulick, an Illinois career management firm the factory owners hired to help the employees search and apply for jobs.
More than 300 businesses and employment agencies in a 30-miles radius of Fostoria were invited to the two-day job fair, which continues today. Sixteen others sent postings for job leads.
"It's a tough market, but we were able to find companies that are hiring," Mr. Kuchar said.
Most of Fostoria is in Seneca County, which had an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in April, the most recent month for which statistics are available.
The city also is partly in Hancock County, whose jobless rate is 4.8 percent, and in Wood County, at 5.5 percent.
Dennis Meyers of Fostoria said he can't work for less than $10 an hour, because the nearly 27-year plant veteran bought his dream house, a car, and a truck just three months before the announced plant closing.
Businesses represented at the job fair yesterday included Fostoria's Alpha Coatings Inc. and Honeywell International Inc., which owns the former Electric Autolite Co. spark plug factory in Fostoria. Honeywell recently purchased the parent company of Indalex but plans to divest the aluminum company.
A recruiter for Rosenbloom Machine and Tool's Bowling Green factory, which plans to more than double its workforce in three years by hiring 130 more employees at hourly wages ranging from $9.50 to $16, said the Indalex workers have good skills and should have no problem finding other jobs.
The catch, though, is they may have to drive to other cities for work, added Andrea Slater, account manager for Job1USA in Bowling Green.
Having to commute to work is Mary Castillo's biggest concern.
"I want to work in town," said the Fostoria resident who has worked at the factory five years.
"If it's in town, I'd take lower pay. I'm not going out of Fostoria unless I really have to."
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: