Is There A Future For the South Side's Columbus Castings?

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About a year and a half after the biggest steel foundry in the country said it planned to add about 500 jobs, all of the company's current jobs could be in jeopardy.  Business Firstreports a Columbus Castings spokesman says workers were informed earlier this week that they could soon be given layoff notices.

A year and a half ago, then-Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman was ecstatic about the economic impact that additional hiring would have on the city’s South Side…the southern gateway is coming back,” Coleman said.

The foundry on South Parsons Ave., is the largest in the United States.  It turns molten metal into the undercarriages for railway cars.  But demand has declined for those products and a foundryman who wished not to be identified says officials warned several days ago that layoffs could be coming.

“Everybody was disappointed.  I mean a lot of guys went out looking for new jobs before that time comes so they wouldn’t be out of work,” the foundryman said.

That same employee says officials told workers that they’re looking for a new owner.

“Everybody is just working, hoping that something happens that another company comes along and takes it over so they won’t be out of work.”

South Side residents are surprised, but such news is not unprecedented.  They’ve seen an exodus of jobs for decades. I caught up with Mark Fox on his front porch.

“Definitely not surprised. The south end has lost quite a bit of industry over the course of my lifetime.  As the shareholders need to make their money – their record profits – our industry leaves, unfortunately. So I’m not surprised to hear it at all.

Down the street, another resident, Albert Smith, tells me he used to work at the foundry when it was known as Buckeye Steel.

“If they don’t find a buyer now, it’s done.  They’re going to start laying off between now and July.  About 800 people so, ‘Katie bar the door,’ you know?

The news, which Smith read in the paper, left him perplexed…

“I don’t understand why they’re closing really, I understand that business is business and maybe they ain’t selling what they used to sell but you’d think they’d find a buyer.  How hard is it to find a buyer like that?”

Meanwhile the South Side’s Mark Fox is optimistic.  He thinks the area’s proximity to downtown will help his community survive.  The answer, he believes, is for residents to train for Columbus’ white-collar workforce.  Even so, Fox says, the possible departure of Columbus Castings is troubling.

“I hate to see anything leave.  I hate to see industry essentially get snuffed out for cheaper rates whether it’s across seas or even taking it to another state.  I hate to see it go,” Fox says.

Company officials reportedly are negotiating with a potential buyer who would be willing to continue operations.