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1982 FIN – With RB&W Closing L.A. Plant, Bethlehem Steel Last Fastener Plant on West Coast

January 11
00:00 2015

1982 FIN  RB&W Closing West Coast Plant

July 22, 1982 FIN – The Russell, Burdsall & Ward west coast plant is closing.
Edward J. Hamilton, RB&W executive vice president, tells FIN that “the Los Angeles plant has been particularly hard hit by imports, for whatever reason.”?Manufacturing will cease the third quarter of this year and the plant will close permanently during the fourth quarter.
It had, at the time of the announcement, about 40-45 employees. A good many of these, Hamilton says, are eligible for early retirement. Most of the rest will be let go.
The Los Angeles plant made a combination of standard and special fasteners. “We set up our plants both on product lines and to serve a particular area,” Hamilton says. “When we have an operation on the Pacific Coast, generally speaking, it serves the Pacific Coast.” He hastens to add, however, that “we still intend to serve customers there.” They will be shipped material from RB&W’s seven other domestic fastener manufacturing facilities and from its City of Commerce (Los Angeles) warehouse. ©1982/2015 Fastener Industry News.
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October 8, 1982 – Bethlehem Steel will remain the only full-line manufacturer of fasteners on the West Coast, with the closing of the Russell, Burdsall & Ward Los Angeles plant September 17.
Bethlehem’s Seattle fastener plant is not part of the West Coast package Bethlehem has up for sale. The Seattle steel mill is for sale as is the Los Angeles steel mill (Bethlehem’s Los Angeles fastener plant was closed in June 1981). The fastener plant is some four or five blocks away from the steel mill and part of a different division of the company, the fastener division, which is part of a group of five manufacturing operations which have been organizationally split off from the steel making operation.
”I don’t see that the closing of the Seattle Steel mill is going to effect us at present.” Tommy Thompson, sales manager for the Fastener Division, tells FIN. “Seattle has tended to be more isolated from the West Coast market then, say, Los Angeles would be. We still have a tremendous impact of imports in the West, but with the fact that we make track spikes and specials as well as standard fasteners in Seattle, we are in a reasonable position.”
Steel supply will not be a problem for them, he says. the Seattle steel mill will continue to operate until it is sold. Northwest’s rolling mill out there has been for sale for four or five years with no takers and it, thus, does not appear likely that the Bethlehem mill will be bought very soon. The Seattle Bethlehem mill has been a money making operation on a continuing basis. Thompson says: “It’s just that it doesn’t fit into the corporate strategy for the future. They are going to expand their efforts on their larger Eastern plants. The Los Angeles mill has not not been a money maker and if that is not sold by the end of the year it will be shut down.”
If the Seattle mill is sold, the fastener plant will be able to buy steel from whoever buys the plant – or they could go to other sources such as Nucor or Cascade.?Imports will be the main competition for Bethlehem Seattle. “There are some small hot shops on the West Coast,” Thompson says, “but there isn’t another manufacturer making both hot and cold in the range of fasteners that we make in the Seattle plant 1/4” through 2” hot and up through 1” cold. There are two track spike machines there and that gives us good base tonnage. We also make a lot of specials out of the plant. If the imports don’t get any tougher, we think we’ll still have a viable operation there if we live through this bad economy we’re looking at now.”
The economy has hit both Bethlehem’s steel and fastener operations hard. They had a long dry period in the late 1970’s, “but it didn’t get to the low levels we have at the present time”, Thompson says. “I don’t think you saw import prices getting as low as they are at the present time and the absolute stop that has taken place in buying . Customers wait until they have to have it before they buy it and if they need one they don’t buy two. The corporation says it is as low as we’ve been since 1941, and I would say our pattern of fastener sales is probably about the same as theirs.
Thompson commented to FIN that distributors attending The Fastener Association meeting in Williamsburg, Va. were reporting about the same problem. “This has got to be the third month without any significant change. We don’t see anything that’s going to change it much. Traditionally, the steel industry has followed the economy by six to nine months and fasteners are tied very closely to steel. From what we are seeing and what we are hearing, we’re not going to see much change in this for six months.?”
“We are getting a feeling of optimism in talking to customers in certain places. I say, ‘Well, do you really see something in the order books?’ and the answer invariably has been, ‘no’. We’ve had little pickups in our volume and then it has fallen back, pretty much on the same pace again.”
In the Midwest, Ron Sackheim, president of the import house, XL Screw Corp., reports about the same. “There hasn’t been much of a pickup. We have a spurt of a week or two weeks and say ‘Things are starting to come back’, then it stands off, like hitting a wall.” XL, itself, is ahead , in tonnage, of where they were last year.” ©1982/2015 Fastener Industry News.
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