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Corning plans to sell two Tri-State plants

May 06, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Corning Incorporated, a cookware manufacturer that employs more than 850 workers in plants in Greencastle and Inwood, W.Va., wants to sell those plants and 18 others by the end of the year.

The sale will affect more than 3,500 employees worldwide. Most work in plants in the U.S., said spokeswoman Monica Ott in Corning's corporate headquarters in Corning, N.Y. The sale will include dozens of company stores across the country, including several in the Tri-State area, she said.

Corning hopes to sell its consumer products division by the end of the year, Ott said.

The Inwood plant, with 350 employees, makes one of the company's most famous products - Corning Ware. The Greencastle plant has 500 workers and distributes products made in the company's four housewares division manufacturing plants. Both plants opened in 1960.

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Plant managers and union officials at the two plants could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

News of the sale plan was not totally unexpected. In December, company officials said in an interview that they were considering closing or selling the consumer products division. At the time, they blamed slumping sales, increased competition and lowered demand for kitchen cookware.

Since then, workers at the Inwood plant have cut manufacturing costs considerably, said a worker with more than 25 years on the job. He asked that his name not be used.

"The financial performance of our consumer products business has improved substantially," Corning Chairman and CEO Roger G. Ackerman said in a press release Monday. "However, as we assessed the business relative to our strategic direction it was apparent that this business was not a clear fit with our areas of concentration."

Corning wants to concentrate on high-growth, technology-driven businesses such as fiber optics, optical cable, photonic technologies and liquid crystal display glass, Ackerman said.

The plants will continue to operate until they are sold, Ackerman said.

"This came as a surprise to us in the plant," the worker said. "We were told that if we couldn't make a profit we would be shut down. We worked hard to get the cost per piece down and now we hear the division is more profitable than it was."

The worker said there has been fear and anxiety among production employees since Monday, the day they were told the plant was for sale.

Ott said any sale agreement would include union recognition plus the salaries and benefits of Corning employees. An average salary at area Corning plants is about $13 an hour.

Ackerman, in his release said, "Corning will consider the ongoing well-being of the business as well as interests of employees and the communities as major factors in our evaluation of any proposal."

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