A sale of the assets of United Foundries to Pittsburgh-based conglomerate Whemco is off. A spokesman for United Steelworkers Local 3610 said today that the sale “fell through.” The sale had been slated to close at the end of September. “The economy had a major effect on the sale,” said Joe Sterling, unit chairman and treasurer of Local 3610. “We are directly tied to the steel industry. You know where it’s headed right now.” Whemco is a collection of manufacturing facilities acquired since 1983 by parent company Park Corp. of Cleveland.
In addition, the company has instituted a two-week layoff for 70 employees at the Canton plant at 1400 Grace Ave. NE. The foundry portion is being shut down, Sterling said. After that, he believes the foundry will alternate between operating for two weeks and shutting down for two weeks, at least until business picks up. United Foundries employs about 110 hourly workers and 40 salaried personnel at the Canton facility. The machine shop will remain open at a reduced capacity with 32-hour work weeks, Sterling said. The company’s Youngstown plant is expected to close at the end of the month, Sterling said. United Foundries also has a plant in South Africa.
A new five-year union contract was ratified at the Canton plant recently, Sterling said. Even though “the forecast is not good” for the steel industry, Sterling said he’s hopeful business will pick up as result of construction projects spurred by the federal government’s economic stimulus package. United Foundries has been in business on Grace Avenue for more than 90 years. The company makes huge iron rollers — called rolls in the industry — that are used in steel-rolling mills to flatten steel. The company also makes rolls for the non-ferrous metals, rubber and plastic industries. United CEO Ed Bauer and President Ron Martin could not be reached for comment Friday. Whemco President and CEO Charles Novelli also could not be reached for comment.