Foundry’s departure ahead of downtown San Jose Google village project ends century of work

SAN JOSE — As Google brings the promise of a bright new future to downtown San Jose, a company that has served the Bay Area and survived relentless shifts in the economic landscape for a century will close its doors early next year.

But the shutdown of Kearney Pattern Works and Foundry, one of the last remaining foundries in the Bay Area, goes beyond the departure of an old-line industrial enterprise in fast-changing Silicon Valley. It is also the end of a kind of living museum of California’s industrial history.

“The birth of metal working in California is reflective of the industries that were creating the economic boom of the day,” said James Simonelli, executive director of the California Cast Metals Association. “The Gold Rush, the railroads, agriculture, all the way to the defense industry, high-tech and automotive and clean energy industries, the metals industry has created parts for all of those sectors.”

The foundry is one of many companies downtown feeling the impact of Google’s plans to build a massive tech campus for up to 20,000 workers on about 245 acres near Diridon Station and the SAP Center. Borch’s Iron Works, across Autumn Street from Kearney, already has closed its doors. World of Sports, Diamond Auto Detail and C&C Architectural Glass all have begun to ponder new sites.

Since it was founded in 1919, Kearney’s steadily shifting customer base has reflected the changes in the Bay Area.

Farmers, packing firms, canneries, wineries, utilities, concrete companies, nuclear plant builders, disk-drive companies, transit agencies, defense contractors, computer makers, semiconductor firms and medical devices manufacturers were among the industries that Kearney Pattern Works served, according to Jim Wagner, the company’s principal owner.

“We did a lot of work for a lot of companies,” Wagner, who is 71, said. “What we did reflected what was happening with the Bay Area’s industry at the time.”

Big-name customers, Wagner recalled, included General Electric, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Applied Materials, Agilent, Lam Research, KLA Tencor, FMC, Varian, Sun Microsystems, Bethlehem Steel, and Ampex. The company also did work for the famed wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

“Every day, we didn’t know what would be coming in the door as a new job,” Wagner said. “It’s been a great business. It was different every day.”

In some cases, Wagner recalled, key customers were being ushered out the back entrance as representatives of another iconic company were being welcomed at the front entrance.

“We had an appointment with IBM at 10 a.m. one day and then H-P at 11 a.m.,” Wagner said. “So we had IBM go out one door while H-P came in the other.”

The Kearney Pattern Works operation in San Jose was launched by Wagner’s grandfather Al Kearney.

Wagner started out working at Kearney Pattern Works doing an array of odd jobs such as truck driving, cleaning sand and pouring metal. After he graduated from San Jose State University, there wasn’t any work for him there so he took a job at a conveyor belt manufacturer in San Jose.

After about a year, he …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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