Mayor: Closure of Akers plant in Avonmore devastating for community
The upcoming closure of a rolling mill in Avonmore is heartbreaking in the borough of about 1,000 people, many of whom have ties to the plant, according to Mayor Paula Jones.
“A lot of people have worked there from cradle to grave. My dad worked there. Uncles. Cousins. Everyone has family there,” said Jones, who worked in the plant’s payroll department for about four decades.
According to a filing with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the Akers National Roll Co. will be closing between July 30 and Sept. 30. The plant employs 119 people.
The plant is owned by Ampco-Pittsburgh, which said it is selling the facility to an affiliate of the South Side-based WHEMCO Inc.
Ampco-Pittsburgh CEO Brett McBrayer said in a news release that the move is a key step in the company’s restructuring.
“Excess capacity and high operating costs in our cast roll system have made operation of the Avonmore facility untenable,” McBrayer said.
If the plant remains closed, its impact in Avonmore will be far-reaching, Jones said.
In its heyday, close to 90 percent of the borough’s working-age residents worked at the mill, although in recent years that dropped to about 40 percent, Jones said.
At one point, the mill employed more than 250 people, but that number had declined in recent years, she said.
Avonmore has four bars, a small store, a Dollar General and four churches, all of which rely on millworkers to survive, Jones said.
Jones, 65, said she worked in the payroll department from 1977 until about three years ago.
“Back when I started, everyone knew everyone,” she said.
The president of the company used to walk around the mill, but that hasn’t been the case for some time, she said.
“They’re after the profit line, I guess, and it’s changed,” Jones said. “They contributed a lot. They own the land that has the Little League field and they mowed the grass and kept the fence in order. I’m hoping we still have volunteers that will help with that.”
Officials from Ampco-Pittsburgh and WHEMCO Inc. didn’t return messages seeking comment.
“We’re not commenting right now as there are still a number of details being worked out,” a United Steelworkers union spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .