Allentown factory touted by officials to close

January 9, 2011 2:13:17 PM PST
A century-old factory in eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley that was held up as a symbol of hope in the former manufacturing stronghold - and visited by President Obama a little more than a year ago as he promoted a jobs plan - is set to close at the end of the week.

Allentown Metal Works is scheduled to close Jan. 15, leaving the fate of the plant in limbo and creditors seeking to collect millions of dollars on debts dating back as far as 2006, when the plant was owned by a different company.

Besides the unpaid bills and lawsuits, a union official says employment on the production line that once required about 80 workers is down to just five steelworkers preparing the plant for closure.

Company spokeswoman Kiersten Williams said Saturday's closure will leave 12 to 15 people without jobs.

"The community has been extremely supportive," Williams told The (Allentown) Morning Call. "They've done everything possible to keep this going."

The gritty factory was no stranger to politicians seeking a backdrop, for example when Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski in 2005 announced a plan for a foreign trade zone to aimed at bringing more manufacturing jobs to the valley.

Allentown Metal Works employed about 130 people when it took over the plant in 2008, but the firm never got hoped-for work from federal stimulus projects. It had laid off about a third of its work force by the time Obama visited on Dec. 4, 2009, greeting workers and wishing them 'Merry Christmas.'

It is unclear what will happen to the plant, although a city official vowed support for a replacement business.

"The city stands ready to assist the business in getting the property back into productive use as quickly as possible," said Sara Hailstone, director of Allentown's Department of Community and Economic Development.


Information from: The Morning Call,