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Kennametal CEO honored at Economic Growth Connection dinner

| Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, 10:45 p.m.

Kennametal Inc.'s operations in Western Pennsylvania should not be severely impacted as the industrial toolmaker continues to reduce its workforce in 2017, an initiative that will eliminate 1,000 jobs throughout the global company, the chief executive said Tuesday.

“Most of the hard work on that reduction in force has already taken place. There is still some work to be done, but I don't think there is a huge impact in Western Pennsylvania,” Kennametal Chief Executive Officer Ronald De Feo said prior to speaking to about 300 community and business leaders at the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland's annual dinner.

The event was held at the Ramada Greensburg Hotel and Conference Center in Hempfield.

The industrial toolmaker is about 70 percent complete in its stated goal to cut the workforce, De Feo said.

De Feo, who has been at Kennametal's helm since February, was recognized by the Greensburg-based group with its Economic Development Award for his leadership and commitment to the company and the county.

De Feo joked that he was happy he was not here this time last year, just after Kennametal had announced it intended to build a global headquarters near an urban location, possibly Pittsburgh. The company said it intended to expand its presence in Pittsburgh by moving its corporate leadership team to the U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh, while maintaining its presence at its existing corporate campus in Unity.

James Smith, president of the Economic Growth Connection, praised De Feo for his willingness to meet for more than an hour with Westmoreland County leaders to discuss keeping its offices in the area at a time when De Feo was working to turn around the company.

De Feo left no doubt that “Westmoreland County is in the very DNA of Kennametal. ... It's in our (Westmoreland County's) DNA as it is in Kennametal's,” Smith said.

Kennametal, which was founded in 1938 in Latrobe by Philip M. McKenna, has more than 50 locations and sells its products around the globe.

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, said the community, including golfing legend Arnold Palmer, rallied to convince Kennametal to stay in Westmoreland because its loss “was going to be a big hole in our county.”

“You brought a breath of fresh air and gave hope for the people here,” Ward said.

“The Kennametal board got the fact that Westmoreland County and Latrobe was our home,” De Feo told the audience, although that fact “might have been misunderstood for a while.”

De Feo said he is impressed with the talent that exists within the region, noting that many of its employees are from this area.

De Feo acknowledged that Kennametal is facing “a little bit of adversity today” and needs mentoring not only from its CEO, but from the community as well.

The company reported a 21 percent decline in revenue during fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30.

The Economic Growth Connection also honored Ralph Liberatore, chairman of the organization's board and founder of Three Rivers Orthopaedic & Spine Products Inc., with its Community Service Award for his leadership and community service.

Liberatore allowed the organization to expand outside of traditional economic development borders to address the needs of the county, Smith said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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