Tacoma Bradken foundry could gain business, employees from Chehalis foundry shutdown

Bradken Energy says it will close its Chehalis foundry and consolidate its work in its larger Tacoma Nalley Valley facility.

The closure, to be accomplished in phases over the next several months, will mean an end to 91 jobs in Lewis County, but could mean an increase in jobs at Bradken’s foundry in Tacoma. Some of the Chehalis workers could be transferred to Tacoma, the company said in a news release.

“The closure will be staggered in departments to service the needs of customers as we work to complete orders at that facility as well as distribute ongoing customer orders to other facilities with much of the work transferred to Bradken’s Tacoma foundry,” the company said in a press release.

The Chehalis foundry was part of Australia-based Bradken’s 2007 acquisition of Americast Technologies which owned Tacoma’s Atlas Foundry. Atlas, founded in 1899 to build iron castings for the logging industry in the Northwest, had bought the Quali-Cast Foundry in Chehalis in 1996.

Bradken’s decision to shut down the Chehalis operation was based on “softer market conditions served by the Chehalis facility.” Part of Bradken’s business supports the oil industry in the United States and Canada.

Oil exploration activities in the U.S. in recent months have been dialed back as the price of crude oil has declined below $50 a barrel. That decline is driven by a worldwide oversupply of oil and the pointed refusal of low-cost producers such as Saudi Arabia to cut production.

Bradken in recent years has invested substantially in its Tacoma Foundry building with a new nuclear imaging facility to test castings for flaws and replacing two decrepit buildings demolished two years ago.

The foundry closure in Chehalis is one of the largest cutbacks by a Lewis County employer in recent years. The foundry’s main building covers some 77,000 square feet on a 5.5-acre parcel of land.

A local economic development official said that because Bradken’s closure decision was driven by external markets, there was little the community could have done to alter that decision.

“In an industry like that there’s a lot of international competition abroad,” Matt Matayoshi, executive director of the Lewis Economic Development Council, told The Chronicle, a Lewis County newspaper. “They can operate under different standards and have lower operating costs elsewhere, so that could probably play into it.”

Bradken officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Matayoshi said the economic development organization will help Bradken sell or seek a new tenant for the building if the company puts it on the market.