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BREAKING: Columbus Castings' 750 jobs in jeopardy as buyer sought

Columbus Castings, the biggest steel foundry in the nation, has told its employees they could lose their jobs, though efforts are under way to sell and continue the business.

Executives of the south side manufacturer and employer of 750 workers informed employees Wednesday about the developments and are expected to give them formal notice as soon as Thursday, said Nick Crandall, Columbus Castings' human resources manager. The company must inform the state that the jobs could be in jeopardy if the plant closes. Employers with more than 100 workers are required to give 60-day notice ahead of major layoffs or closings.

But it is possible the Parsons Avenue company could be saved: Columbus Castings is working with a potential buyer that is willing to continue operations, the company told employees, and is still running three work shifts and taking orders. Alternative financing is another option that could influence the operation's future.

Whether the plant is saved or not, it's a stunning reversal for a company that in 2014 pledged to add 550 jobs over three years with help from state and city tax incentives, an announcement that drew the mayor and governor of Ohio. If the plant is lost, it would be a major blow to redevelopment efforts on the city's south side.

Columbus Castings is a vestige of the city’s manufacturing past, operating under various owners since the late 19th century. Its most recent owner, New York private equity firm Protostar Partners, runs a consortium of similar metalworking businesses through Constellation Enterprises LLC, which wasrecapitalized in February.

Moody’s Investors Service said the move was made “ to avoid an event of a payment default given the company’s limited sources of liquidity.”

The attempted resurgence of the 1 million-square-foot, 88-acre site was viewed as key to renovating its rough surrounding neighborhood.

Renewed shale oil and gas development and its transport by rail helped drive business to Columbus Castings, but activity has fallen off since the company announced its job growth plans in late 2014.

Political leaders promoted Columbus Castings as a focal point for the south side, and it was to be the first client for the new Reeb Avenue Center, a jobs training center in the area.

“The revival of Columbus Castings is a huge success story,” Gov. John Kasich saidin September 2014. “(Private job growth group) JobsOhio is a strong partner with the company and we look forward to the lasting change they’ll help bring to the city and the state overall.”

Former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman echoed Kasich’s optimism.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better employer to have stuck around Columbus for more than 100 years,” Coleman said at the time. “We’re thrilled about this expansion, and know it will be greatly beneficial to the south side of Columbus. We’re proud that Columbus Castings calls our city home and look forward to seeing its continued success for another century.”

Samuel Prescott Bush, the great-grandfather of former President George W. Bush, led the foundry from 1908 to 1928.

Source: bizjournals.com

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