Metals-forging firm near Boeing Field closing after 8 decades so real estate can be sold

The Seattle Times

Posted In — News & Press | In the News

After 78 years in business, a local manufacturer that forges metals for Boeing, the U.S. Navy and other big customers is shutting down so its property can be sold and redeveloped.

Jorgensen Forge, which operates a 22-acre facility next to Boeing Field in Tukwila, just over Seattle’s southern border, said Wednesday it has stopped taking new orders and will wind down operations over the next six months or so.

All 110 union employees at the plant are being laid off and were informed of the closure on Wednesday.

“Some people are very worked up, very upset,” said Matthew Steffen, a Jorgensen manager. “There are people that have worked here their entire adult lives, 30-40 years, and don’t really know any other place.”

Jorgensen, founded as a Navy facility during World War II in 1940, has a long history repairing and making marine shafts. It also does custom metal forging for the aerospace industry, oil and gas companies and nuclear- power businesses, using aluminum, steel, titanium and nickel-based materials.

It’s one of the few businesses of its kind left in the United States, as overseas companies that often do such work more cheaply have chipped away at the industry.

Its customers have included SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, General Electric and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Steffen, who issued a press release announcing the closure, said the business was “profitable and financially healthy.” Since its New Jersey parent company, Constellation Enterprises LLC, was liquidated after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016, Jorgensen has been owned by former secured noteholders of Constellation, doing business as CE Star Holdings.

Steffen said CE Star has decided to sell the property to a developer to take advantage of the booming real-estate market.

“They see much more opportunity in redeveloping this land than continuing with operations as a forging facility,” Steffen said. No buyer has been identified yet.

Emails sent to CE Star representatives went unreturned Wednesday.

Much of the focus locally on rising real-estate values has been on home prices, rents, and residential and office development. But the industrial real-estate market is going through a similar boom – led by soaring demand for warehouses because of Amazon and other e-commerce companies.

The vacancy rate for industrial projects across the Puget Sound region is down to 3 percent – lower than the apartment or office vacancy rates, according to Kidder Mathews. Rents continue to rise, as well.

In South King County, companies leased 573,000 square feet of industrial space just in the last quarter – the equivalent of one skyscraper spread out over several low-slung buildings. Regionwide, there are two dozen industrial projects totaling 6.1 million square feet under way now.

King County has assessed the Jorgensen Forge property on East Marginal Way at $14.4 million. The facility itself is 250,000 square feet.

Steffen said he expects the workers to begin leaving as they search for new jobs.

The workers, represented by the International Association of Machinists local 751, are coming up to the end of a three-year union contract with management. They had already endured layoff notices a couple years ago when the company was going through bankruptcy proceedings.

“There’s a lot of concern among the staff here about where and how to find new positions elsewhere,” said Steffen.

Mike Rosenberg: mrosenberg@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2266; on Twitter @ByRosenberg.

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