ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – A proud chapter of manufacturing history in northeastern Kentucky is coming to an end.
AK Steel has sent out final notices to employees of the closure of its Ashland Works plant on Tuesday. It will affect some 260 employees.
The closure comes as no surprise. AK Steel announced on Jan. 28, 2019 that the plant would be permanently shuttered by the end of 2019.
Renee S. Filiatraut, vice president external relations, labor and litigation at AK Steel, sent a letter detailing notices to ichelle DeJohn, rapid response coordinator of the Kentucky Office of Employment & Training.
“Based on the best information available to AK Steel, we expect the closure of the Ashland works to be completed in two phases over the next few months,” the letter reads. “Position eliminations in Phase 1 will occur on Nov. 4, 2018, or during the two-week period thereafter. Position eliminations in Phase 2 will occur on Dec. 17, 2019, or during the two-week period thereafter.”
The letter said 176 employees will be separated in Phase 1 and the remaining 84 in Phase 2.
Employees have been notified of the 60-day layoff notice but it’s not sure which employees will be picked for the two layoffs.
“This is disheartening,” Union President Kendall Kilgore told The Daily Independent on Monday. “It was an icon to this community. It provided many families with a good life. It’s going to be a great loss to Ashland.”
Production at the plant will continue until the end of October. The remaining workers following the first round of layoffs will clean out the plant and prepare equipment to be moved to other AK Steel sites.
The plant will be completely shut down by Dec. 31, Kilgore told the newspaper.
Much of the operations, including the blast furnace, has been idled since December 2015 but it continued operating a single hot dip galvanizing coating line.
“It’s really a tough hit for Ashland, Kentucky,” said Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore in January when the closure was first announced. “That plant basically built this town as far as I’m concerned. It’s had such a major impact for 100 years.
“Armco (the former name of the steel plant) raised me,” he said. “I have very strong feelings about it. Being the mayor, losing that many jobs in a small town, is very difficult.”
Plans for the original plant came in 1920 when George M. Verity, president of Armco, proposed to construct a steel mill. When it was completed on October 19, 1923, it featured a continuous rolling method to produce steel sheets, the first of its kind in the nation. Armco later purchased the old Ashland Steel Company, followed by the Norton Iron Works and the old Ironton Furnaces.
In 1920, Armco employed 3,600 but just 18 years later, that had increased to 5,500. In 1954, the payroll increased to 7,500 before decreasing to 4,500 by 1972, 3,500 in 1982, 1,630 by 1986 and just 700 by 1992.