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MetalTek International is suspending manufacturing operations at its Southern Centrifugal Division on South Creek Road in Chattanooga.

MetalTek International shut down its 45-year-old machine shop in Chattanooga on Friday, idling the last of its 46 production employees.

The Waukesha, Wisc.-based manufacturer said it is closing its 112,798-square-foot plant on South Creek Road in Chattanooga because of the ongoing slump in oil drilling and other mining activity caused by the drop in energy and commodity prices and the softness in the industrial markets it serves.

"We regret that we must indefinitely suspend operations at Southern Centrifugal, which has been an important contributor to MetalTek's success for many years," MetalTek's CEO, Bob Smickley, said in a statement. "But we also believe that this move places us in the best position to provide the highest level of service and response that valued MetalTek customers have come to expect."

The company said it will try to offer jobs for those displaced by the Chattanooga plant closing at the eight other Metal- Tek facilities that will continue operations in Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida, South Carolina, Scotland and England. With customers in more than 35 countries, MetalTek International is one of the world's leading manufacturers of alloy components for extreme temperature, high wear, and harsh corrosive environments and high-compliance industries.

The shutdown of the Chattanooga MetalTek plant comes just four days after GE Power announced it was closing its riverfront turbine manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, laying off 235 employees later this year. GE Power acquired the Paris-based Alstom last year, which was the corporate successor to what was once Chattanooga's biggest manufacturing employer. As Combustion Engineering in the 1970s, the riverfront power equipment plant had nearly 6,000 employees making components for nuclear power plants.

Other machining shops also have suffered from the downturn in the oil, nuclear and coal mining and power generation business.

Last month, Abutec Industries — a maker of advanced burners in Soddy-Daisy — laid off eight workers. Other machining shops and power equipment makers in the region also have cut staffs in response to the closing of U.S. coal and nuclear power plants and a slowdown in new power demand.

Cheaper energy and a shrinking growth in demand led the Tennessee Valley Authority to trim its staff from a high of more than 52,000 in the 1970s and early 1980s to under 10,000 full-time employee today. With only a handful of new nuclear plants being built anywhere in the United States, nuclear equipment suppliers and testers have had to cut their staffs this year.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

This article was updated June 24 at 10:45 p.m.

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