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Optimism Fades

Ormet Closure Places Three Local Brothers Out of Work

June 16, 2014
By CASEY JUNKINS Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

HANNIBAL - Donnah Willey of Pine Grove said all three of her sons continue searching for work after losing their jobs in October when bankrupt Ormet Corp. closed its smelter, displacing about 900 employees.

Although published reports show that Ormet officials are seeking court approval to auction the smelter after securing a "stalking horse" bid of $15.25 million, Willey said she and her family are not optimistic for a restart of the plant that produced its first aluminum sow in 1958.

"We have always thought it would close. We never thought they would go back to work," Willey said. "It's just a bad situation."

Article Photos

Photo by Casey Junkins
More than 900 workers lost their jobs when the Ormet plant closed in October.

In February, Ormet officials announced intentions to sell the reduction plant that sits between the Ohio River and Ohio 7 in Monroe County. This was roughly one year after the company filed for bankruptcy protection amid a business environment that included falling aluminum prices and disputes over energy costs.

The company may now have a buyer for $15.25 million, pending an auction and court approval.

However, Willey said this does not give her reason for optimism. She said her sons David, Henry and Jeff continue looking for new jobs following Ormet's October closure. She said all three had worked at the plant for several years prior to the shutdown.

Fact Box

ORMET HAS A STORIED HISTORY

1956 Ormet Corp. organized by Olin Corp. and Revere Copper and Brass Inc.

1958 Ormet's Hannibal Reduction Plant begins making aluminum. Ormet opens the Burnside Bulk Marine Terminal Division.

1974 Consolidated Aluminum Corp. acquires Olin's interest in Ormet and assumes 66 percent ownership, with Revere owning 34 percent.

1986 New owner purchases what is now Ormet Primary Aluminum Corp.

1996 Ormet purchases 13 miles of railroad track between Powhatan Point and its Hannibal Rolling Mill.

2001 The last anode is produced at the carbon plant in Hannibal. The company begins buying anodes from overseas suppliers.

January 2004 Ormet files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

November 2004 United Steelworkers Local 5724 members at the reduction plant go on strike.

April 2005 Ormet exits bankruptcy. Former creditors, led by Matlin Patterson Asset Management, become shareholders of the company under the reorganization.

December 2005 The rolling mill closes, placing about 600 union and non-union employees out of work, even as the 500 union members were still on strike.

2006 Turnaround specialist Ken Campbell is named interim CEO. USWA ratifies contract. Ormet obtains new power agreement with American Electric Power to allow it to restart its smelter.

2007 New executive management is put in place with Mike Tanchuk as CEO and James Burns Riley as chief financial officer. Former rolling mill property sold.

2009 Fears grow that Ormet may shut down all six of its potlines due to a disruption in the worldwide supply of alumina. However, the company ultimately decided to keep at least four of the lines going before eventually restarting all six when the alumina supply issue ended.

July 2012 A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice showed Ormet prepared to cut as many as 837 hourly and 161 salaried positions by the end of the year because of increasing electricity bills. However, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio offers the company a temporary reprieve.

February 2013 Ormet files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Spring/Summer 2013 As production and employment levels vary, Ormet has hearings before the PUCO regarding AEP rates. Minnesota-based Wayzata Investment Partners announces plans to purchase the smelter for about $221 million, provided Ormet can receive these power discounts.

Oct. 4, 2013 After the PUCO provides Ormet a discounted power rate, but not as significant as the one the company sought, Ormet shuts down the smelter. This immediately placed about 900 workers in the unemployment line.

Late 2013/early 2014 Ormet sells off raw materials required to make aluminum.

February 2014 Officials with the bankrupt company announce intentions to sell the entire smelter.

June 2014 Published reports show that Ormet officials are seeking court approval to hold an auction to sell the smelter after securing a "stalking horse" bid of $15.25 million.

"My husband retired from there after 30 years, so we've seen a lot of things happen over the years," she said.

Willey said her three sons have diligently looked for work after losing their Ormet jobs in October. She said Jeff applied for a job with EQT Corp., one of the many Marcellus Shale drillers working in northern West Virginia.

"They are trying hard. They are all good, hard workers," she said, noting David and Henry are also traveling throughout the area in search of new jobs.

"We just have to pray and hope for the best," Willey said. "We are helping them out as best we can, in the meantime."

Willey also pointed out that Ormet's closure hurts the entire region due to a loss of property taxes, as well as a loss of money to be spent in other businesses.

"It is going to hurt the schools - it is going to hurt everyone," she said.

A recent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice on file with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services shows Ormet may soon release the final 42 employees working there.

 
 
 

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