KWH Pipe Canada Ltd. is shuttering its only U.S. extrusion plant less than six months after announcing plans to upgrade production at the site.
Officials from the polyethylene pipe maker told local officials in September that they planned to cease operations at the Shafter, Calif., location, said Herman Ruddell, general manager of the Minter Field Airport District. Ruddell's group leased the 16-acre site to KWH, which is based in Mississauga, Ontario. The move affects 80 employees.
KWH officials did not return calls seeking comment. A receptionist at the plant confirmed Oct. 10 that the company has ceased extrusion, but said KWH continues to ship from the site for now.
``KWH indicated to us that the U.S. economy is weak, while the Canadian economy is much stronger for its product,'' Ruddell said in an Oct. 10 telephone interview. ``They have planned expansions at two of their Canadian facilities and those expansions are the same product lines that are produced here. Their economic analysis indicated that it was best to relocate equipment to the Canadian facilities and exit the U.S. economy for the time being.''
KWH still had four years on its lease at the two-building site, where it operated three extrusion lines. The company had been in Shafter for nearly 10 years, Ruddell said. The firm also operates facilities in Huntsville, Ontario; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
According to its Web site, KWH supplied pipe to the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii from the West Coast. Under that project, KWH pipe was used to provide cold seawater to aquaculture enterprises and ocean energy experiments.
In June, KWH officials announced plans to upgrade all three North American sites. Shortly before that the North American group nabbed its largest contract ever, an agreement to provide 5,940 tons of 63-inch pipe for Toronto's Deep Lake Water Cooling project. The contract was valued at US$5.7 million.
At the time, officials said the expansion at Shafter included modernizing equipment. Upgrades to the Saskatchewan and Ontario sites are part of a three-year project wrapping up next year.
On Oct. 8, the firm appointed Keith Cryderman as its new vice president of operations.
The group is owned by KWH Group Ltd. of Vaasa, Finland, a family-owned business. The North American group reported an estimated US$76 million in 2001 extrusion sales with 310 employees.