Williams Industries Inc., which fabricates and erects steel for bridges and highway overpasses, said it lost $780,000 in its past fiscal year and partially blamed "political haggling" in Congress over highway spending.
The company said it is closing a steel-fabricating plant in Bessemer, Ala., because it received less work than it expected. It blamed the fact that Congress has not passed a highway spending bill in a year. The Bessemer plant, which has operated for three years fashioning huge pieces of steel for use in bridges and overpasses, was also hurt by higher steel prices.
"The fact that Congress has been unwilling or unable to pass a new infrastructure spending bill after more than 18 months of political haggling is an indictment of our lack of domestic priorities," Frank E. Williams III, president and chief executive, said in a news release. "Our elected officials on both sides of the aisle can't seem to find time to focus on what is clearly a priority for the safety of the American people."
Congress and the Bush administration are at odds over how much to spend on highways. President Bush wants a $256 billion outlay over the six years normally covered by the bill; after months of haggling, the House and Senate recently failed to compromise on a $299 billion bill. In the meantime, Congress has been patching together short-term spending bills, the latest to run through the spring.
Williams Industries, based in Manassas, said the standoff has made it hard for states and construction companies to plan ahead.
The chief executive said in an interview that the company decided to level the blast at the government in its year-end earnings statement because "I had to do an earnings release, and I had to put in the reason we shut the Alabama operation. I don't think I'm a dumb guy, and I still think it was the right thing to open the plant. I'm exasperated. And the construction industry as it relates to infrastructure is devastated."
For its fourth quarter ended July 31, the company lost $459,000 (13 cents a share) on revenue of $13.4 million, compared with a loss of $24,000 (1 cent) on $13.7 million revenue for the corresponding quarter the previous year. The full-year loss of $780,000 (22 cents) came on revenue of $53.9 million, compared with a loss of $936,000 (26 cents) on $52.7 million for the previous fiscal year, which ended July 31, 2003.
The company lost less money this fiscal year than last fiscal year, despite its struggles with the government. The earlier loss was attributed more to internal problems, said the chief executive, particularly costs at the company's heavy-equipment rental business, which he said has since been streamlined.
The stock rose 15 cents yesterday on the Nasdaq Stock Market, to $3.70 a share.