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The Death of a Factory : Alcoa Closure Begs the Agonizing Question: Could It Have Been Avoided?


On a recent stroll through one of its cavernous buildings, now mostly vacant except for scattered piles of shiny metal tubes and other unfinished materials, Kvochak points to a $200,000 concrete floor that was installed this year.

"If there was some predestined plan to shut this place down, we wouldn't have spent the money," he says.

Despite the labor-management breach, Kvochak speaks with affection of his former employees and the factory complex that was their home for so many years.

"It's a great place," he says, walking past furnaces and machines that are mostly silent now.

"There are great people. It's really sad. Really sad."

Factory Jobs

Los Angeles County has lost more than 250,000 manufacturing jobs since its all-time peak in 1979, while non-manufacturing jobs have increased. Heavy industry, including many high-paying unionized jobs, has been hit the hardest. In the job index below, 1979 = 100.

High-tech manufacturing (1993): 69.0

Non-manufacturing (1993): 114.6

Light manufacturing (1993): 90.9

Heavy manufacturing (1993): 55.0

Source: Goetz Wolff, Resources for Employment and Economic Development

Aluminum Prices

As the Soviet Union fell apart, Russia flooded the West with aluminum in a bid to earn hard currency for its battered economy. Worldwide aluminum prices collapsed in 1990 and remain at low levels. Quarterly prices per pound, in cents:

'94: 56.45 cents

Source: WEFA Group

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