ROYERSFORD PA – Today (Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009) was the last day of employment for about 20 percent of the work force in the former Sermatech International surface coatings facility at 159 S. Limerick Rd., Royersford PA.

The Sermatech International website as it appeared Friday (July 10, 2009).

Sermatech International website as it appeared this July.

Sermatech’s new owner, Praxair Surface Technologies Inc. of Danbury CT, is closing the Royersford plant and moving its operations to similar facilities in Connecticut, California, and Canada, according to Linda Jones, administrative assistant in Royersford. The remainder of the approximately 50 Royersford employees also are likely to be out of work by year’s end.

Royersford plant General Manager Tom Lewis was said to be on vacation and unavailable for comment.

“It’s not easy for anyone here,” Jones said of the closing. “There are some people who came to work here right out of high school, 30 to 35 years ago,” and of those, Jones added, none are expected to be retained or moved to other Praxair units. Two administrators, she noted, will be relocated to offices in Indiana.

Praxair bought Sermatech in early July 2009. The local company, which maintained its North American headquarters in nearby Pottstown PA, manufactured coatings for applications “where resistance to corrosion, erosion, fouling, and high temperatures is essential,” according to its website. Sermatech products were used in the aerospace, chemical processing, industrial gas turbines, oil and gas drilling, and semiconductor industries.

Remaining workers at Royersford will wrap up in coming weeks as they pack and ship that plant’s tooling to other facilities, Jones said. However, workers elsewhere in the Praxair system – who benefit from the local closing – reportedly have not yet been certified in jobs Royersford workers performed. As a result, Jones said, a skeleton crew will remain at Royersford until the out-of-state employees are qualified.

The date of locking the Royersford plant doors “is up in the air right now,” Jones said. “We’ll be open as long as it takes to get the others qualified.”

The combined companies’ declining financial picture may have played a role in the Royersford plant’s fortunes.

During a teleconference for investors held Wednesday (Oct. 28, 2009) on Praxair’s fiscal third quarter 2009 results, company officials announced the “Sermatech acquisition contributed $22 million in sales” but offered “minimal operating profit, net of integration costs.”

Praxair also reported quarterly sales for its surface technologies division, into which Sermatech was merged, were down overall by 17 percent year over year, and that operating margins had fallen from 17.2 percent in 3Q2008 to 13.3 percent in 3Q2009.

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