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HOWLAND Deal puts Ajax employees back to work



Published: Wed, July 17, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Manufacturing is about people, the chairman of the Cleveland company said.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HOWLAND -- About three weeks after their former employer abruptly shut down their Overland Avenue N.E. company, about 50 Ajax Magnethermic Corp. employees filed back in this morning.

"We approached Park Ohio of Cleveland and have an agreement with the banks to operate Ajax as-is until final arrangements can be made," said Tom Illencik, who worked as director of technology for Ajax.

Illencik and four other former Ajax employees, Mike Faver, plant manager; Craig Camens, general manager of service; Bill Vennette, director of after-marketing; and Gerry Jackson, director of product marketing, started making plans to operate the company after it closed down and they were terminated June 28.

Approached Cleveland company

They approached the Cleveland manufacturing company July 1. Ed Crawford, Park Ohio chairman, said his son met with the group.

"I learned there was a group of employees with 130 years' experience looking for help with a manufacturing company in Warren, Ohio," Crawford said. "Manufacturing is really people -- that's where the skills are."

The five men organized a bus load of about 50 Ajax employees to drive up to the Cleveland company. Park Ohio and the five men were able to work out an agreement with the banks to reopen the doors.

With a possible purchase plan still in the works, officials declined this morning to talk about the amount of the investment.

Ajax, which makes industrial equipment, was bought a few years ago by CitiCorp Venture Capital of New York, which closed the plant.

Crawford said the longer the facility remained closed the more damage would be done in loss of employees and customers.

"We want to let our customers, both nationally and internationally, know that we're back in business," Crawford said.

Some employees walking into the plant this morning declined to comment, saying they were unclear about details.

Illencik said it's too early to predict how many employees may be called back to work and no decisions have been made about the name of the facility.

"This is about jobs and getting people back to work," Camens said.

Jackson pointed out that Park Ohio hired about 100 former Ajax employees before it even owned the building. That shows faith in the company and its employees, he said.

Commissioners' reaction

"This is the best business news we've had in years," Trumbull County Commissioner Joseph Angelo said at the plant gates this morning.

Commissioners got the word last night.

"This is about these five guys and job retention," Commissioner James G. Tsagaris said.

He added that the company didn't ask for anything from the county or township.

Howland trustees and the county commissioners approved a 60 percent, 10-year tax abatement for Ajax in April. Commissioners said the status of the abatement would have to be reviewed.

"The commissioners will do everything we can to work with the new company," Angelo said.

Darlene St. George, Howland administrator, echoed commissioners' sentiments.

"What a fairy tale," she said. "Five guys believed in their company and the work force and worked it out. This says a lot about the work force in Trumbull County."




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