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A worker at ESCO’s Main Plant in Portland uses an angle grinder to finish a cutting head for a dredging machine head.

ESCO Planning to Close Portland Steel Foundry

Jan. 12, 2016
Casting, finishing of mining and excavating parts to end late in 2016, or early 2017 247 workers, salaried staff affected Operating costs factor in decision 103-year-old operation

Portland, OR-based ESCO Corporation plans to close its steel foundry there, known as the Main Plant, by the end of this year or early in 2017, according to a recent announcement. The 103-year-old electric steel melting, casting, and finishing operation produces large-scale designs like “ground-engaging” parts and chain links used in mining, drilling, and excavation.

As with other operations supplying the mining and energy sectors, ESCO’s Main Plant appears to be a casualty of declining demand. Matrix Metals LLC announced last month it is closing Keokuk Steel Castings in Iowa. ESCO announced last February it would close a foundry in Nisku, Alberta.

According to ESCO CEO Cal Collins, the specific operating costs of the Main Plant also influenced the decision to close the plant. “This was a difficult decision, particularly given the impacts on our outstanding employees, but a necessary one based on the realities of our business today and going forward,” he stated. “The expenses associated with operating our Main Plant are simply too high to justify, in part due to the challenges of operating an industrial facility in a Portland neighborhood, and the protracted downturn in our markets.”

ESCO has dozens of manufacturing plants and supply/service locations in 24 countries. It has another Portland foundry, called Plant 3 that will continue to operate. The corporate headquarters and the Hank Swigert Center for Innovation will continue at the main location.

The Main Plant has 177 full-time employees. ESCO also indicated it would reduce the number of salaried workers at Portland by as many as 70. The announcement made it clear they will be offered severance packages, “retention-related compensation,” and outplacement service.

Collins described the decision to close the plant as proof that ESCO would “dedicate our resources” where they will create the greatest value for customers.