The Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce (WCCC) recently passed a resolution "urging West Virginia political representatives to actively intervene in the potential loss of jobs from Ormet Corporation and the possible closure of this plant located in Monroe County, Ohio."
The resolution was signed on Sept. 13 by WCCC Board President Don Riggenbach, WCCC Board Vice-President Larry Tackett, WCCC Board Secretary Mindy Mall, and WCCC Board Treasurer Eric Vincent."
The resolution from the Chamber states that "The Chamber is alarmed by the impact on the surrounding communities due to lay-offs and possible plant closure having a negative economic effect."
The resolution comes almost a month after Ormet, located in Hannibal, laid off 92 workers. The number of layoffs could increase in the future, as the local aluminum plant is suffering from both low market prices for the metal it produces, along with high costs for electricity.
A deal involving American Electric Power and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has given Ormet lower electricity costs throughout the past few years. But a new rate structure in effect depletes the discount and will increase Ormet's utility bills by about $20 million a year.
Furthermore, the resolution urges "all political leaders to immediately initiate contact with Ormet Corporation to negotiate possible resolutions to their financial issues."
This statement comes after pleas for help to John Kasich, governor of Ohio, have gone unanswered.
The Wheeling Intelligencer reported last week that Tom Byers, president of United Steelworkers Local 5724, recently collected more than 2,500 signatures for a petition and accompanying letter that he mailed to Kasich to seek the governor's help in finding a solution for Ormet.
Kasich has appeared to not answer pleas from Ormet directly; instead, Kasich's representative directed questions to JobsOhio, which is a private, non-profit entity created by Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly last year to "lead the state's economic development efforts."
According to The Intelligencer, a JobsOhio spokeswoman stated a new proposal sent by Ormet is in the process of being reviewed. A previous proposal was sent by Ormet earlier in the year, but JobsOhio felt that could not "go along with that at the time."
The Intelligencer reported that a PUCO spokesman, Jason Gilham, stated the electric rate matter is resolved at this point; however, any change in power costs for the plant would have to be approved by his office.
As for the response of local political leaders, Wetzel County Commissioners reviewed a copy of the resolution, which was mailed to them by the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce. When asked if they supported the resolution, Commissioner Scott Lemley stated the commission "supported the concept" of it.