Virgil Probasco has seen the ebb and flow of steel manufacturing.
He started in the industry some 50 years ago when it represented a good secure employment base for a young man.
Later, he saw foreign imports nearly derail the nation's once mighty steel base.
Retiring Wirerope Works Vice President Virgil Probasco gestures toward a spool of wire cable at the firm’s city plant.
Probasco, who served as executive vice president of Wirerope Works, has retired.
He said he can look back on a career that had its high notes, especially in the years after 2004 when the Williamsport plant became a viable part of the local industrial scene.
"I worked in the steel industry for 50 years," he said. "Twenty-seven of those years were with Bethlehem Steel."
Probasco, a native of Wyoming and graduate of Valparaiso University, started in the industry as a roll builder in 1962 at Midwest Steel in Indiana.
After a stint in the U.S. Marines, he took a job with Bethlehem Steel, first in Indiana and later in Minnesota.
In 1992 he was offered a job to work at Williamsport's Wire Rope plant.
At the time, Rhome Management served as its holding company as well as for the Johnstown Foundry.
"I traveled between Williamsport and the Johnstown Foundry in Johnstown, Pennsylvania," he recalled. "In 1996 I took over the plant at Williamsport as president."
Assuming command of a faltering plant offered a challenge, but Probasco felt the operation could be saved.
But by 2003 the plant was ready to shut down.
Probasco said a search led by Bill Davis, a member of the Wirerope Board of Directors, was launched to find investors to rescue the company.
Enter Tom Saltsgiver, a local investor who was able to infuse the company with the capital needed to bring back the staggering operation.
"In March 31, 2004, we started up as Wirerope Works. We were about 275 people strong at that point," he said.
The past eight years, when he served as executive vice president, have been the among the most fulfilling of Probasco's career, he said.
"Tom just wanted to make the company a successful company," he said. "We gave him a business plan, and he took a risk."
Probasco said the company now employs 430 people who are part of a team that manufactures Bethlehem Wire Rope and Paulsen Wire Rope, a leading provider of wire rope, strand and other lifting products and services.
He gave a lot of credit for helping turn the company around to the people who worked at the plant during those years.
"With all the foreign competition out there we are able to make a product made in American and sold worldwide," he said. "We have done signature jobs around there world."
Strand manufactured at the local plant has been included in large-scale projects. For example, it's used to hold up the roofs of The Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas, and Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Probasco, who lives with his wife, Elaine near Rose Valley Lake, plans to do some traveling in his retirement.
Lamar Richards, a longtime Wireropes Works employee who's served as director of Engineering and Technical Services, takes over as executive vice president.
"Lamar has spent his entire career with this company and working with wire rope," Probasco said. "He has worked well with the broad base of our customers over the years solving and helping to resolve complex wire rope applications. He has helped develop and maintain the highest standards of wire rope engineering along with the customer service expected of our company."