Housewares molder Stylette Inc. is still in business after a Sept. 17 flood that destroyed $7 million in equipment and inventory, but its manufacturing operation in Oakdale, Pa., has been shut down.
The molder, a division of Alco Industries Inc., saw 21 injection molding machines severely damaged from residuals of Hurricane Ivan, officials said.
``We ended up with 4-5 feet of water in offices, manufacturing floor and warehouse,'' President Richard Martz said in a Nov. 3 telephone interview. ``Our first order of business was to get our molds out of the building and outsourced to different molding companies in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio. That's how we're handling the molding.''
Now the company is considering three options: Stylette could continue to outsource and focus on being a product development and sales and marketing company; it could acquire another molding company; or build a new factory or find an existing one that meets Stylette's needs, Martz said.
``It doesn't make much sense to reinvest in this operation when it's prone to flood,'' he said. ``We've got good flood insurance that covered us for this loss, but it's unclear what insurance premiums would be in the future. We've been here a long time. We have a lot of employees that have 25-30 years here. But as I said, it would not make good sense to resume manufacturing here.
``We're going to stay in business and continue to grow the company. The union, of course, is devastated that we're shutting down operations. We will be negotiating with the union. Those talks haven't begun yet, but they will,'' Martz noted.
Stylette has been at the location since 1952. It owns the 97,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and leases another 55,000 square feet of warehouse space about eight miles away. The firm also lost its inventory in that space during the flood.
Officials filed a layoff notice with the state during the week of Oct. 25 for the 92 union positions that will be lost.
``I think there's a set of circumstances that hasn't been revealed to us yet,'' said Rob Forrester, president of United Steelworkers Local 14034, who has been a Stylette employee for 11 years.
``They were fully insured,'' he said. ``I have been working with local politicians to see what type of package we could offer them to stay in the area. The union is doing everything they can to keep it here. [But] if they can make the profit and not have to spend the money on the insurance, we would have to offer a pretty sweet deal.''
Stylette in its prime had 133 union employees, which was roughly three years ago, Forrester said in a telephone interview Nov. 3.
``We had actually been expanding over the last few years,'' he said. ``Even though it changed from an around-the-clock manufacturing operation to a five-day, three-shift model, the plant was staying busy,'' Forrester said.
``We were running fairly good before the flood. We actually picked up a few months prior to the flood. We had more presses at the time we closed than they ever had in the whole 50 years of business,'' he said. ``All the presses were operating normally.''