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LAST REMNANT OF UNION CARBIDE TO CLOSE IN FALLS

UCAR Carbon Co., the last remaining plant of the massive Union Carbide complex that employed 10,000 people here between 1920 and 1960, will shut down in December, laying off the remaining 12 workers.

"I spent my whole career here," said Bob Bucci, the site manager who has worked at the Highland Avenue plant for 31 years. "I never thought I'd be the one to close the gate."

The business manager for Carbon Electrode Business, a division of UCAR based near Nashville, Tenn., told The Buffalo News on Thursday that the Niagara Falls plant couldn't hold on any longer in the current economy.

"We have a great crew of people in Niagara Falls," said Joe Haworth, speaking from Columbia, Tenn. "It's unfortunate the market doesn't allow this facility to continue to operate."

The plant at 3625 Highland Ave. was founded in 1910 as the National Carbon Co. In 1917, it was one of four companies that merged to form Union Carbide.

Three shut down in the 1980s, leaving only the Highland Avenue plant, which at its peak employed 1,100 people. Union Carbide spun off UCAR in 1992.

Most of the employees are veterans who worked at the Union Carbide plant on 47th Street or who have been with UCAR for years, said Bucci.

One employee is a third-generation worker at the plant. The employees didn't want to be interviewed, Bucci said. "After all these years, it hurts," he said.

The Tennessee division office will try and find jobs elsewhere in the industry for the laid-off employees -- most of them skilled production workers who earn upwards of $15 an hour, Haworth said.

Production at the plant will cease at the end of November, he said.

The last 12 workers operate three electric units that turns raw coal into a finer product which is used in the manufacture of carbon electrodes.

The carbon electrodes are used in electric furnaces and to make such products as silicon metal, which is used as an aluminum additive and in the manufacture of sealants and lubricants.

"The operating level at the facility has been very low for some time," Haworth said.

e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com

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