Kutztown Foundry closing its doors, 123 jobs lost

Patriot photo by Dan Clark The Kutztown Foundry will be closing its doors after 144 years in operation.

The Kutztown Foundry is closing its doors after 144 years of operation and will begin the process of laying-off 123 jobs.

The public and workers were notified that the plant would be shutting down on March 5 and the final day of operation is planned for May 5.

The Kutztown Foundry is a manufacturer of steel parts for mining rails and railroads. The foundry was purchased by McConway & Torley in 1980 which has another plant in Pittsburgh.

“Unfortunately, the market has dropped off tremendously because of the economy,” said Dave Yopconka, plant manager at the Kutztown Foundry.

Certain parts of the steel industry are very successful at this time, Yopconka explained. He said that the automotive industry is in full swing but railroad parts and mining tracks are currently on a decline.

Edward McCann, chief operating officer for the Berks County Workforce Investment Board, responded to the news of the Foundry closing.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about why it’s closing,” said McCann.

McCann will be meeting with management from the plant, union members from the plant and members of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to learn specific reasons why the plant is closing.

“We’re not sure if they are getting any kind of severance or if the last day of operation is on May 5 and whether or not people will be phased out before then,” McCann said.

At the meeting, held on Tuesday, March 19 after press deadline, McCann will see if the plant is going under because of foreign competitors, which he says would be the best situation for the workers.

“If the plant closes down because of foreign competition then there are a lot more benefits in terms of retraining and other benefits,” McCann said.

According to the McConway & Torley website, the foundry dates back to 1869 and was purchased by McConway & Torley in March of 1980.

Trinity and McConway & Torley are very concerned about the unemployment of the workers at the Foundry which include Fork Lift Operators, Welders, grinder operators and inspectors.

According to Yopconka, the foundry has been contacted by other steel mills to hire workers.

“We’re working with a local employment agency to help find our workers jobs so that it will not be a rough transition for the workers,” Yopconka said.

Kutztown Borough Manager Gabriel Khalife is concerned about the foundry closing not only because of the jobs and the ancillary revenue that the foundry provides for the borough but another issue is the power that the borough buys.

“We purchase power with the intent to re-sell it,” said Khalife.

The problem that Khalife sees is that the borough has to pay back the power that it purchases even if they cannot sell it.

“That’s something we’ll have to make adjustments for in 2013 and 2014,” Khalife.