A once-bankrupt steel plant, revived three years ago with the help of local and state incentives, will close again this December, laying off between 90 and 100 workers.
Steel tube manufacturer Altx Inc. was included in Albany County’s Empire Zone in 1999. The company also secured a $6 million tax-exempt bond through the town of Colonie Industrial Development Agency.
But those assists couldn’t overcome soft business conditions. On Nov. 27, the company announced it would cease operations indefinitely at the end of December.
“After the three years from its acquisition [the plant] has not reached its initial industrial and business targets,” said Rufino Orce, president of the U.S. operations for Tubacex SA, the Spanish company that owns Altx.
Tubacex took over operations of the plant, once home to Al-Tech Specialty Steel Corp., after Al-Tech filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 1997.
Altx depends on industries buying steel tubes and pipes. Since industrial investment is weak, demand is flagging, said Michael Locker, president of Locker Associates Inc., a consulting firm focusing on the steel industry.
Still, Tubacex has no plans to sell the plant or machinery inside. The company wants to reopen the site if business conditions improve, Orce said.
It’s hard to say when that would happen.
“Nobody seems to know which way the economy’s going,” said Locker. “I would say you’re probably talking a one- to two-year window.”
Though workers knew orders were down at the plant, the timing of the layoffs was a surprise, said Richard Knowles, of the United Steelworkers of America’s Upstate New York Region. The union represents 77 production workers at the plant.
“Probably half the employees have been through this once before,” Knowles said.
Those workers lost their jobs when the plant, then owned by Al-Tech Specialty Steel, closed in 1999.
This time when the plant closes, a few workers will be kept on to maintain the site and machines. But the vast majority will lose their jobs, Orce said.
Around half the workers already have been cut, Knowles said.
The company and the union still have to negotiate a severance package. A few tentative dates for negotiations have been set for the next few weeks.
Still, employees are hoping the market rebounds and the plant re-opens.
“We’ve just got to keep our fingers crossed and hope that the economy kicks off,” Knowles said.
Altx had other problems recently.
In November, the company was cited by the U.S. Labor Department for allegedly exposing employees to potential falls, crushing accidents, electrocution hazards and unguarded machinery.
The citation followed a crane accident in August in which an employee was killed.
As part of the citation, the Labor Department proposed a $71,000 fine.
And back in 1999, the former owners of Altx’s Spring Street Road site were listed in a pollution settlement with the state Attorney General’s Office.
GATX Corp. of Chicago, the former owners of Al-Tech, agreed to pay $8.9 million to clean up the Spring Street Road site and another site in western New York.
Category: Report Update