Owens-Illinois May Close Godfrey Site

A Madison County glass manufacturer may relocate jobs to South America and possibly shut down operations after 48 years.Owens-Illinois Inc. put its Godfrey plant up for sale 18 months ago, but has failed to attract any strong bids.

Company administrators will meet Wednesday with representatives from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 9, which has 222 members among the company's 261 employees at its plant at 315 Tolle Lane in Godfrey.

Company spokesman Kelly Yoder said a decision would be announced sometime after the meeting. She said that according to the company's vice president of operations, the outsourcing may come as a result of a changing market and corporate focus.

"We are evaluating our options," Yoder said.

District 9 business representative Dennis Pearson said he has heard the company is looking at as many as 70 different vendors, including one in Colombia in South America.

"We certainly don't appreciate it," Pearson said. "I think the company is probably making a mistake. We have a highly skilled work force out there, and they do excellent work. If you try to save a dollar here save a dollar there, you're robbing Peter to pay Paul."

The plant opened in Godfrey in 1958 and initially employed 310. Cutbacks announced in January 2004 reduced the workforce by 45.

The company also opened a glass plant in 1929 in Alton, but it closed in 1983.

Owens-Illinois Inc. is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, and is the largest glass container manufacturer in North America, with more than 140 plants in five continents.

The company's origins trace back to 1888, when glass blower Michael Joseph Owens went to work for the New England Glass Co. in Toledo. Fifteen years later, Owens invented the first automatic bottle-making machine, an innovation that led to the formation of the Owens Bottle Co. that same year and revolutionized the glass industry.

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