Announcement brings hope to job seekers in Blair County

The last Friday of October in 2001 was a sad day in Tyrone history.
As the working whistle blew for the last time at the Westvaco plant, residents in Tyrone and surrounding areas waved good-bye to more than 250 good-paying jobs.
“The mill’s workforce has aggressively confronted extremely challenging market conditions, doing its best to improve product quality and manufacturing operations,” said Westvaco executive vice president James A. Buzzard when the news hit that fateful day. “These efforts, however can no longer overcome the competitive pressures caused by the economic slowdown, the strong U.S. dollar and the related sharp increase in imported paper. Today’s circumstances dictate that we concentrate our production on the most efficient equipment.”
But now the scene is changing. Westvaco is owned by a group known as Team Ten LLC and according to reports, up to 180 jobs will be added to the local employment market.
Beginning at 11 a.m. this morning, CareerLink in Altoona began accepting applications for the 170 new positions.
“We want to try and hire as many local employees that we can,” said John Ferner, president of Team Ten LLC, the group which purchased the mill. “We want people experienced in paper making and we know that there are a good deal of those types of people in this area.”
According to Ferner, to begin operations, a workforce of at least 150 people will be needed. He said the group is searching for people experienced in maintenance, power and boiler plant operation and paper making.
“We’re going to first look at the people who have the experience,” said Ferner. “Whether they come from here or Lock Haven, we need the people who know how to do the job.”
Ferner said the average salary for skilled employees will be around $14 per hour, a rate which Ferner said is “very comparable” to the rates that were being paid when the plant closed in October of 2001.
Each presenter at this morning’s new conference applauded the Tyrone workforce for not only its dedication, but also for the ethics they posses.
Rep. Sather summed it up in a nutshell.
“The hiring process is soon to start, the plant is expected to be operating by Sept. 1, and there could be 170 jobs not far down the line,” said Jubelirer. “We will again see the parking lot filled, workers moving about the plant, the machinery in motion, products being shipped, workers spending money in shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, all welcome indications that things have taken a turn for the better.”
Marty Marasco, president of the Altoona Blair County Development Corporation, also offered comments.
“The new company expects to employ approximately 170 people within six months to one year,” said Marasco. “This announcement sends word around the country that right here in Blair County, the heart of the I-99 Innovation Corridor, we are improving and expanding our existing asset base and using our competitive location to create new jobs.”
“This is a beautiful day for Tyrone and for the great number of skilled workers here,” said Ferner. “We’re excited to finally get this project off and running. Soon, the machines will be running and the parking lot will be full of cars again. We can’t wait to see that happen.”
During the press conference, a number of officials noted that a September 1 opening date is planned, but Ferner said realistically, the plant may not be running for a little while after that.
“We really need to just wait and see how the hiring process goes,” he said.
Ferner said he hopes the company will take off as expected and maybe even add more positions at a later date. He said he hopes the opening of the plant will attract other businesses into the area, thus creating more good-paying jobs to the residents of Northern Blair County.