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Sale of plant causes concern



Published: Sat, September 1, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The president of the new company told workers they all have a job and he hopes to hire more.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- Workers at a Youngstown metal-stamping plant have a mixture of hope and anxiety after their plant was sold twice in less than two years.

About 140 workers at the former Commercial Intertech Corp. metal-stamping plant on Andrews Avenue learned Friday that the plant was bought by an ownership group formed by Blue Point Capital Partners, a Cleveland-based investment company.

Parker-Hannifin Corp., the Cleveland-based manufacturing giant, sold the plant at an undisclosed price after acquiring it last year when it bought Youngstown-based Commercial Intertech.

Plant workers are nervous because the plant will be operated by a new company, Commercial Metal Forming, said Matt Luc, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 2332.

They are hopeful, however, because Bill Kowal, president of the new company, told workers that all 140 workers will be retained and he intends to use the Youngstown plant as the company's backbone, Luc said.

What's planned: Kowal said he wants to buy other stamping businesses under a parent company named Metal Technologies Solutions, Luc said. More workers could be added in addition to the four workers that have been hired in the past couple of months, he said.

Besides Metal Technologies, Blue Point has ownership interests in 22 other companies, including Salem-based Blackhawk Automotive Plastics.

Blue Point was formed last year when Key Equity Capital was spun off from Cleveland-based KeyCorp as a separate company.

Luc said workers were not surprised by the sale because Parker said after acquiring Commercial that the stamping business didn't fit with its other operations and it was exploring a sale.

"People are glad to have closure because they have been in limbo ever since Parker bought them," he said.

Kowal and union officials have agreed to begin negotiating a new labor contract Sept. 24. The current agreement expires Jan. 31, 2002.

"He wants to get rid of all uncertainties with customers and employees because of the short amount of time left," Luc said.

Also included in the former Commercial Intertech stamping business are plants in Texas and California, but a release from Parker didn't mention those plants. The division has annual sales of about $50 million.

Kowal and Blue Point officials could not be reached to comment.

About the operation: The plants make manhole covers and frames and caps and other parts for air compressors and mixing vats.

Parker retains its two hydraulic plants in Youngstown. It said last year that Commercial's hydraulic operations fit well with its hydraulic, pneumatic and electromechanical systems.

Don Washkewicz, Parker chief executive, said in a release that Kowal and Blue Point have been involved in managing successful businesses.

"Our priority was finding ownership that would focus on growth and support the interests of the community. We know Bill and his organization well, and we are confident they are both capable and committed to grow this business," Washkewicz said.

shilling@vindy.com




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