SHARPSVILLE With steel fallout, SQP Industries will close

Some of the employees are the third and fourth generation of their families to work in the plant.
SHARPSVILLE, Pa.-- SQP Industries survived hard times and a couple of bankruptcies, but the foundry couldn't beat a failing steel industry.
Don Lacey, chief operating officer, said the company will pour its last ingot molds Oct. 19 and workers will just be doing finishing work on existing orders after that.
The plant should close completely by Thanksgiving, he said.
The foundry's 40 employees were notified of the decision Tuesday, Lacey said, praising the work force for its efforts to keep the plant going.
"They did everything they could. We just caught bad economic times. Some of these guys are third, fourth generation in this plant," Lacey said.
Some of them also owned a piece of it at one point.
Employee involvement: The employees put together a complex financial package to buy the facility when its parent company, Shenango Inc., went into bankruptcy seven years ago.
They reopened it with 55 percent controlling interest as Sharpsville Quality Products and seemed to be making a go of it until financial problems faced by some of the foundry's customers caused a major cash crunch that resulted in the plant filing for bankruptcy protection and closing down in November 2000.
Rather than seeing the facility cut up for scrap, the company and its creditors arranged a sale through federal bankruptcy court to Hempfield Partners Inc. of Pittsburgh in January for $1,055,000.
That breathed new life into the foundry, which reopened April 2 as SQP Industries.
New product lines: The company continued to make ingot molds for the steel industry and counterweights for the heavy-lifting equipment industry and, in June, was looking at some additional product lines to expand its operations.
But those new product lines never developed and, in the meantime, the bottom fell out of the steel industry, resulting in fewer orders for ingot molds, Lacey said.
He said he doesn't know what will happen to the plant, which sits on 40 acres and has 250,000 square feet under roof.
It could be developed as an industrial park, he said, noting the building is in good shape and all of its bays have overhead crane service.
The plant lies in the Shenango Valley Enterprise Zone and a state Keystone Opportunity Zone, which makes any new developer eligible for special consideration for state and local development assistance.