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HOWLAND Ajax plant has a new owner



Published: Thu, September 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A county commissioner credited a group of Ajax executives for attracting the attention of the new owners.

THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

HOWLAND -- It's official -- Park Ohio Holdings, a Cleveland company that reopened the shuttered Ajax Magnathermic plant on Overland Avenue N.E. in July, is the new owner.

Park Ohio bought the Howland plant and most of its other assets for $24 million in an auction Tuesday, said Ron Cozean, new president of Ajax.

Cozean said the new owner plans to keep the Ajax Magnathermic name and will begin adding employees soon to help with processing new orders.

Abrupt shutdown

Former owners closed the facility without notice in late June, idling more than 200 workers. The manufacturer of induction melting, heating and heat-treating equipment was making money, employees said.

Cozean said the plant work force has grown to about 137 employees since Park Ohio began working on a purchase plan in mid-July when a group of five workers reached agreement with Ajax lenders to continue limited operations.

The former Ajax executives -- Tom Illencik, Mike Faver, Craig Camens, Bill Vennette and Gerry Jackson -- approached Park Ohio after the shutdown to talk about an acquisition.

"I have to take my hat off to those guys," said Joseph Angelo, a Trumbull County commissioner. He said the community is calling the five employees who approached Park Ohio about a sale the "fabulous five."

'Wonderful story'

Cozean, who held a position at the corporate office of Park Ohio before taking over his new position at Ajax, agreed that the five played a major role. "It's a wonderful story," he said.

"Park Ohio was aware of the company and had some interest in it, but the bottom line was sitting down for dinner with those folks back in July. They had a dream, and essentially it was to bring as many employees back as possible."

Cozean said it's too soon to say how many additional employees will be hired. Founded in 1948, Ajax Magnathermic was bought several years ago by Citicorp Venture Capital of New York. Howland trustees and county commissioners approved a 60 percent, 10-year tax abatement for Ajax in April. At that time owners were making plans to close operations in Kentucky, to move about $4.5 million in machinery, equipment and inventory to the Howland plant, and to add 40 to 50 jobs over the next two years.

A month later the company axed about 50 management and hourly employees, and the plant shutdown came about two months later.

Angelo said commissioners will have to meet with the new owners before they can determine the status of the abatement.

Park Ohio is a publicly held company that has logistics, manufacturing and aluminum products divisions. Its stock trades on Nasdaq under the symbol PKOH.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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