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SOUTH GATE : Foundry to Close; 67 Will Lose Jobs

August 07, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

Sixty-seven jobs will vanish at month's end when the Universal Cast Iron Manufacturing Co., a fixture in the Southeast's industrial landscape since 1946, closes down, company officials said last week. The plant, which produces cast-iron plumbing fittings and couplings, has distributed and sold its products under the brand name UNIVCO.

Located on 7.4 acres near the Los Angeles River, Universal's plant is part of an estate controlled by the family of Albert Levinson, who died in 1992. According to Ray Javier, Universal's chief financial officer, the company has been losing money since 1990.

"It's very tough nowadays to run a foundry," said Javier, "and even tougher to sell one." The nation has only seven cast-iron foundries left, he said.

According to City Manager Todd Argow, who has been involved in the effort to save Universal, Levinson's family does not want to operate the business any longer. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1993, Universal had $14 million in sales, according to Javier, but the plant lost more than $1 million last year alone. The loss in city tax revenue will be negligible, Argow said, since Universal was not a retail outlet.

The family tentatively agreed last September to sell Universal to Jones Plumbing Systems of Birmingham, Ala., according to a statement released by Douglas Bess, Jones' chief financial officer. The agreement entitled Jones to purchase all of Universal's property and tangible assets.

According to Jones spokeswoman Kim Nolan, the purchase agreement was terminated in November. Nolan declined to say why Jones changed its plans.

Universal's closing reflects a countywide trend over the past two decades, in which about 300 industries and factories have left the Los Angeles Basin, according to statistics compiled by UCLA's Lewis Center and the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. More than 50,000 jobs in relatively high-wage, largely unionized industries have disappeared or moved elsewhere due to competition and lower operating costs abroad or in other states. Some of those jobs have been replaced by the growing durable manufacturing sector, which includes apparel cutting, furniture-making, printing operations, plastic laminators and sewing shops.

Javier said there are no plans to convert Universal's facilities into other operations.

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