Kennametal to close Hempfield plant | TribLIVE.com
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Joe Napsha

Kennametal Inc. said Thursday it will close its Carbidie manufacturing plant in Hempfield as part of its overall restructuring that includes shutting down two manufacturing plants in Germany and a distribution center, all within the next two years.

Pittsburgh-based Kennametal, which has corporate offices in Unity, said operations at the Arona Road plant would be consolidated primarily into a newly modernized infrastructure plant in Rogers, Ark.

The closure plans are contingent on negotiations with the United Steelworkers, Kennametal officials said.

Kennametal spokeswoman Christina Sutter said in a statement Thursday that the company is not disclosing employee-related specifics by location.

“We are working closely with the local union representatives to ensure we support affected employees with severance and outplacement services as necessary during the transition. If there are relocation opportunities, we are considering those as well,” Sutter said.

Sutter said in May that the company was in talks with the United Steelworkers regarding the future of the plant.

Ronald Bowser, a USW representative in the union’s North Versailles office, referred questions to the media relations office in Pittsburgh.

USW spokeswoman Jess Kamm declined comment. “We can’t speculate on potential subjects of negotiations that have yet to begin,” she said.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the website for the state Department of Labor and Industry did not list a 60-day notice from Kennametal of the plant closing, as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The industrial toolmaker said the restructuring is part of its ongoing simplification and modernization plan, which includes evaluating operations at other, unnamed plants.

Kennametal CEO Christopher Rossi said the plants are being closed to improve operational efficiency and “continue to drive value for shareholders.”

Closing those plants in the fiscal year is part of the restructuring, which, in total, is expected to deliver estimated savings of $35 million to $40 million, the company said.

Economic Growth Connection CEO James L. Smith said his organization was given advanced notice of the closing and may be able to assist with workers finding new employment. Many of them are highly skilled machinists known as CNC (computer numerically controlled) operators, he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can partner with (Kennametal) and help these folks find a place to land,” Smith said. “The No. 1 thing companies tell us is: We can’t find people. Given the skill and training (of the Kennametal employees), I think there would be plenty of opportunities for them in the county.”

Although Kennametal announced plans to move its corporate headquarters to Pittsburgh in 2015, it maintains a substantial presence in Westmoreland County through its technology center in Unity near Latrobe.

Kennametal was founded in 1938 by metallurgist Philip M. McKenna in Latrobe.

The company acquired the Carbidie plant from Greenfield Industries in 1997. Carbidie was founded in Latrobe in 1953 as a company that made high-quality carbide sections held to a specified tolerance, according to Kennametal. Carbidie products became an important component of tools that manufacturers used to make consumer and industrial products, including razor blades, baby diapers, bandages, pharmaceuticals, soda can tabs, bricks, ceramic roof tiles and electrical motors.

As of three years ago, Kennametal employed about 900 people in Westmoreland County at its Unity technology center and manufacturing plants in Irwin and Hempfield.

In 2016, Kennametal cut 1,000 jobs from its global workforce of 12,000 employees to save a projected $100 million. A decade ago, the company slashed 1,200 jobs from its worldwide operations, again to save an estimated $100 million.

Kennametal closed plants it operated in Westmoreland County at Kingston and Chestnut Ridge.

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