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Published: Tuesday, 3/25/2003

Village mourns Dana plant closing

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
`I have a lot of friends out there; they have a lot of time invested,' says Nadene Gerencser, with Karen Lee, in the background, owner of Karen's ParkStation Bar & Grill in Antwerp. Ms. Gerencser has worked four years at the plant. `I have a lot of friends out there; they have a lot of time invested,' says Nadene Gerencser, with Karen Lee, in the background, owner of Karen's ParkStation Bar & Grill in Antwerp. Ms. Gerencser has worked four years at the plant.
BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

ANTWERP, Ohio - Nadene Gerencser considers herself one of the more fortunate former employees of Dana Corp.'s Boston Weatherhead plant near this Paulding County village.

Though she was among the first to receive a pink slip from the soon-to-close company, 34-year-old Ms. Gerencser has her husband's income to fall back on - and she didn't have decades of service in the firm. She worked for the plant for four years.

“I have a lot of friends out there; they have a lot of time invested,” Ms. Gerencser said yesterday, as she sipped on iced tea in a bar as her colleagues worked nearby. “I really do feel bad for them.”

Ms. Gerencser's last day on the job was March 14 - a day she and dozens of others gathered after work at Karen's ParkStation bar to say good-bye, reminisce, and share their sadness.

More good-bye gatherings will be held again Friday afternoon, when the remainder of Dana Weatherhead employees work their last day at the plant. The closing is one of many factory shutdowns to hit area towns in recent years.

Dana agreed last year to sell its Boston Weatherhead industrial hose and fitting operations. Dana agreed last year to sell its Boston Weatherhead industrial hose and fitting operations.
BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Boston Weatherhead's closing was far from a surprise to officials and factory employees in this town of 1,740, about 85 miles southwest of Toledo.

The only question was when it would happen.

In the fall, Toledo's Dana Corp. announced it had agreed to sell its Boston Weatherhead industrial hose and fitting operations, resulting in the closing of the 195-employee Antwerp plant, a fixture in town for more than 50 years.

The Toledo auto supplier sold to Eaton Corp. of Cleveland, which said at the time the Antwerp plant would no longer be needed. Despite that notice last year, people in this town still were taking the closing hard this week.

“I think most of the employees are pretty shell shocked. They're trying to remain as calm as possible,” said Karen Lee, who owns Karen's ParkStation along busy U.S. 24.

“It's a big thing here in town. A lot of people were raised on that place - a lot of people died on that place.”

Ms. Lee said most residents in Antwerp have some sort of connection to the plant, which used to be the town's largest employer.

Her own mother worked there, and a woman who works with Ms. Lee has a husband employed there.

As visitors discussed the plant with Ms. Lee and Ms. Gerencser, a man eating lunch at the bar piped up and said he worked at the plant until he joined the military in the 1970s.

Antwerp Mayor Margaret Womak said the village is in the process of annexing the property where the plant and other companies are located on the east side of town. She said officials hope that tax revenue from the annexation will increase the village's coffers.

She said employees had notice of the closing, which will ease some of the impact of finding new jobs.

In addition, Ms. Womak said the employees' pocketbooks won't be empty, as United Auto Workers Local 1871 negotiated a one-year salary severance package for all workers with more than four years of service.

Union officials did not return calls seeking comment. Officials from Dana could not be reached for comment.

“We all hate to see it go, but we knew it was coming,” Ms. Womak said. “That's just how these plants work. There's nothing we can do about it.”



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