Alliance Castings Co. LLC, Alliance, OH, will begin shutting down in late January 2017, according to local reports. The plant is expected to be fully idle by the end of February, leaving approximately 435 workers unemployed. A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice was filed December 1 with the Ohio Office of Workforce Development.

The WARN letter cites “the major downturn in rail car manufacturing and the resultant lower demand for the plant’s products.” The company indicated it expects the layoff to be temporary, but it could not project the exact duration.

"We serve a highly cyclical marketplace for our products but we will be ready to reopen when the demand returns," said Doug Battershell, general manager. "However, the challenging North American market conditions have driven us to this difficult decision. Alliance recognizes the dedicated work of our employees and will make every effort to alleviate the impact on them and the community during this transition."

Alliance Castings is one operating unit of Amsted Rail, a multinational manufacturer of rail car parts and structures. Alliance Castings produces parts like rail car wheels.

According to the company’s statement, it will monitor the North American market conditions to keep the plant available for restarting once North American demand for its rail car castings improves.

The plant was idled for about two years starting in 2009, restarting in 2012. Although the market for rail car castings is historically quite cyclical, the idling decision was apparently unexpected.

“I am writing this post with a heavy heart,” United Steelworkers Local 2211 president Ken Meredith announced in a social media posting. "… (W)e were called into meetings today and given the unexpected news that the plant will go idle as of January 28, 2017." Meredith’s posting requested the USW members’ patience as union officials evaluate and prepare for the implications of the idling for more than 400 foundry workers.

Other steel foundries serving the rail and general industrial market have closed or gone idle in the past year, too. Columbus Steel Castings, also in Ohio, declared bankruptcy in May, ceasing operations. The assets were sold in a bankruptcy court auction in August.

Keokuk Steel Castings in Iowa was closed in February, but local investors bought the operation earlier this month with plans to restart it.