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DECATUR — Citing growing competition as the primary cause, longtime Decatur fabrication facility Kopetz Mfg. closed earlier this month after its final delivery went out the door.

The decision to close “was made over the last several weeks and was made due to the lack of work in our industry,” said Dan Rennert, chief operating officer. The plant closed on Aug. 1, Rennert said, and attention immediately turned toward preparing for an Aug. 20 online auction to liquidate the building and equipment.

The factory, located at 1500 N. Country Club Road, specialized in the custom fabrication of large vessels used in a regasification process, converting liquid natural gas into a gas form.

Its fabrications were shipped all over the world, including to China, Brazil, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Taiwan, India, Colombia and South Korea.

Rennert said its primary customers, as of late, were South Korean shipbuilders who began working with companies there to provide the same services that Kopetz provided.

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Rennert said changes in the oil industry, consolidation within the industries Kopetz served and the entrance of new competitors proved too much to overcome.

Rennert said in late 2015 the company employed about 60 workers. As of eight weeks ago, that number had dwindled to five production workers.

“(The market) changed very quickly,” Rennert said. “(In 2015) we were so busy you could barely walk through the plant.”

Ryan McCrady, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur & Macon County, said while it's never good to see a local company close, he is hopeful the workers, who are highly skilled, will be successful finding work elsewhere in the community.

The company was started as S.R. Kopetz Co. Inc. by Stephen R. Kopetz, Harold F. Kopetz, Mark A. Kopetz and Robert W. Bart in 1976 after leaving Superior Welding Co, another Decatur steel fabricating firm. Joseph G. Bart also became a co-owner shortly after its founding. The company was purchased by William S. Blalock in 1988, who sold it to Jim Grady in 2008.

In 2013, the Herald & Review reported that Grady announced Kopetz Mfg. had its finances recapitalized in an agreement with LMW2 Partners, LLC. In a statement released at the time, Grady said he had steered his company through the recession and had been looking for an “investment partner to assist in taking Kopetz to the next level.”

In late 2016, as presenter for the Millikin Institute for Science Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, Grady was optimistic about the future of the industry.

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Contact Scott Perry at (217) 421-7976. Follow him on Twitter: @scottperry66

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Deputy Night Editor

Deputy night editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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