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Lathrop mayor makes attempt to save jobs

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POSTED November 19, 2013 1:35 a.m.

By JASON CAMPBELL    

The Bulletin

LATHROP – Sonny Dhaliwal knows that his efforts to save more 100 jobs at the Pilkington float glass manufacturing facility might fall short.

That’s why he’s bringing in the big guns.

The Lathrop Mayor said Monday night that he felt that he had to do something after learning that the city’s second-oldest employer would cease operations next year, He has already been in contact with the office of Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, who agreed that she’d sit down with a panel from the City of Lathrop and representatives from the company to determine what could be done.

Citing changing air pollution regulations and a high-cost of overhauling the aging facility, Nippon Sheet Glass – the Tokyo-based parent company that bought the UK-based Pilkington in 2006 – said that it would have to shutter the Lathrop plant at the end of next year. Production is currently set to cease in February, and distribution-related work would continue through August.

Dhaliwal will now attempt to coordinate a meeting between a City of Lathrop panel – consisting of Dhaliwal, Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas, City Manager Steve Salvatore and Community Development Director Glen Gebhardt – and representatives from Pilkington that would be willing to sit down and figure out what could be done on the local and state level to keep the doors open.

The facility was granted a variance three years ago that allowed them to operate without making the roughly $100 million in upgrades that would have been needed. The massive overhaul was planned in 2008 but the economic downturn sidelined the work indefinitely. As the deadline for the improvements approached it became clear that the plant wouldn’t be compliant within the state’s mandated timeline.

“These are 118 head-of-household jobs, and we need to make sure that we do everything that is humanly possible to assist the company in making sure that they stay here,” Dhaliwal said Monday. “We want to see if that timeline can be extended.”

Pilkington opened its doors last year to the community at large as it celebrated its 50th anniversary. The site was at one-time the Libbey-Owens-Ford plant, and was at one time a major supplier to automotive glass to American car manufacturers. The closure of the NUMMI Plant in Fremont effectively ended its auto glass manufacturing.

Dhaliwal did not set a timeline Monday for the group to meet, but noted that the matter was pressing.

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