Honeywell restarts front-end operations

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

METROPOLIS, Ill. - Back in business. Thursday, the Honeywell plant in Metropolis, Illinois re-started its front-end production operations. The move seems to put the plant back on track to open fully, after it shut down and laid off 228 workers last July.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspected the facility at that time and found it wasn't prepared for a major natural disaster, like an earthquake.

Since then, Honeywell made millions in upgrades, but won't release the dollar amount, calling it competitive information.

In December of 2012, the plant started recalling some employees, and 250 full-time workers are there now.

Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel hopes the local economy can now begin to stabilize, with money flowing into it again.

Almost one year ago, McDaniel felt uncertainty.

"Not knowing what the future would bring," he said.

But Thursday, he feels differently, knowing operations are ramping up, and Honeywell isn't leaving Metropolis high and dry.

The millions in safety improvements tell him the company will be there long-term.

"When you invest millions of dollars, you have an intent to keep up with the production," he said.

Honeywell spokesperson Peter Dalpe said 250 workers are in the plant now. They need 270 to resume full operations after approval from the NRC.

"We've still got concerns. We've still got people laid off," said Stephen Lech, Union President.

Lech said there are 20 union members that haven't been called back.

Only five of the 20 open jobs are hourly. The company told the union weeks ago nobody on the recall list qualified for those jobs.

"We are going through the steps in our contractual grievance process," said Lech.

Mayor McDaniel said the layoff pulled money out of the local economy.

"You're talking millions of dollars over that period," he said.

And though partial production is a start, he's waiting for a better announcement.

"We're looking for the day they go to full production," said McDaniel.

Honeywell officials anticipate operations will be back at full capacity in a matter of weeks. They are awaiting approval by the NRC that could come by early July.

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