SEBASTOPOL -- West Valley Welding, a metal fabrication and repair shop in this west Sonoma County city for 30 years, will close its doors following an equipment auction later this month.

The shop had up to 18 employees during peak activity but had on staff an average of six. The last jobs are set to be completed this week. A couple of workers already have new jobs, according to founder Bob Hirsch.

Economic conditions and competition from outside the area made it too difficult to keep the company's current half-dozen employees busy making and fixing metal components such as gates and fences for farmers and ornamental ironworks for homeowners and contractors, according to Mr. Hirsch. He founded the company in San Jose in the early 1970s, moved it to Sebastopol in 1981 and retired 10 years ago. His son, Scott, and Stephen Hansen are the current owners.

"A lot of the work was related to the construction industry,"  said Bob Hirsch, who remains an owner of the central Sebastopol building where the business is located. "A lot of jobs that might have gone forward have been delayed or not materialized due to difficulty getting financing."

The sale or closure of the company was delayed by about a year because of a major structural steel job for Burbank Housing Development's newly finished Windsor Redwoods development in Windsor, he said. West Valley Welding has been pursuing million-dollar jobs since the flow of work for residential remodeling projects or automatic gates tapered off as property values fell, but the company hasn't been able to devote enough time to bidding as larger local fabricators and those from outside the county.

The slowdown in ornamental ironwork has taken its toll with other longtime metal fabrication shops. Stocklin Iron of Santa Rosa entered Chapter 7 liquidation late last year, according to Bankruptcy Court documents. Founded in 1969, Stocklin reached a peak of making 400 spiral staircases a year, the company website said.

Equipment at the West Valley Welding shop, located at 6871 Abbott Ave., Unit 4, is set for an online auction, hosted by Woodland-based West Auctions from July 19-21. An on-site preview of sale items is set for this Saturday, July 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The business also was listed for sale Tuesday for $175,000 by Santa Rosa Realty. Bob Hirsch said sale of the business would be preferable, but the ability to hold on for up to several months while the operation is sold would be too challenging, given overhead costs and too little work.