General Carbide to add 100 jobs in $14 million expansion at its Hempfield facility
General Carbide Corp., a second-generation, family-owned precision tooling company in Hempfield, will add 100 new jobs in a major expansion over the next 18 months.
President and CEO Mona Pappafava-Ray made the announcement Monday as the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. General Carbide performs precision tungsten carbide tooling for the oil and gas and automotive industries as well as petrochemical manufacturing and pulp and paper production.
It’s been a year of many celebrations for the company the late Premo Pappafava founded in 1968.
Proprietary specialty products from General Carbide can be found in a number of unlikely places, including on the New Horizon explorer that is hurtling through space toward Pluto as well as on a Formula One race car, company spokesman Randy Roadman said.
Pappafava-Ray, who took over the company at her father’s death in 2002, couldn’t be happier.
“Because of how well we’re doing, we are simply out of capacity. … We are celebrating our best year ever,” she said, announcing the $14 million expansion that will add 60,000 square feet to the company’s main plant in Hempfield’s Carbon neighborhood.
Precision lathes whirred in the background and workers queued up as she led U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh, and Congressman-elect Guy Reschenthaler, R-Peters, on a tour of the facility that employs 256 machinists and support workers.
A company spokeswoman said the majority of jobs created in the expansion will be for machinists, but there will be positions in the lab and engineering departments as well as some for general laborers. The positions are expected to pay $15 to $25 an hour.
Plaques covering the wall on the plant reception area pay tribute to a number of employees who have clocked at least 30 years with the company.
“It is a family business not only because it is family-owned, but because of these people,” Pappafava-Ray said, gesturing to employees on the plant floor. “This year, we will be giving out $250,000 in bonuses.”
Tax reform, coupled with a booming economy, helped fuel General Carbide’s success this year, she said.
But Pappafava-Ray acknowledged much of the company’s success comes from a workforce that has supported the business in good times and bad. She said in tough times, workers have lived with pay freezes and stops to the company’s 401(k) plan, sacrifice she tries to make up for when business is booming.
Like many of its competitors, General Carbide took hard hits in the 2008 economic downturn and again in 2014-15, when the oil and gas industry declined. The company spent the last four years climbing back and adding to its workforce as the economy improved.
Toomey touted the company’s expansion as a “fantastic development” and a great example of a company thriving amid a national record in manufacturing output.
Asked about the threats the Trump administration’s tariffs and trade policies might pose to such expansions, Toomey said he has let the administration know about his concerns over its trade policies amid announcements of major downsizing at companies like General Motors.
“When the president announced the new NAFTA, he said the tariffs on steel and aluminum were going away,” Toomey said. He said he’s still waiting for that to happen.
He was less optimistic for a quick resolution to the nation’s trade war with China.
“We have to hold them accountable for intellectual property theft,” Toomey said. “Hopefully, they will come to the table and mend their ways.”
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, [email protected] or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.