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Nearly 1,000 Could Lose Jobs At Ormet

By Staff | Jul 28, 2009

Nearly 1,000 Ormet Corp. employees could be out of work by October, as the company may shut down all six potlines at the Monroe County plant.

More than 50 years after the first aluminum sow was produced in 1958, the future of the facility nestled between the Ohio River and state Route 7 seems to be in doubt.

Ormet Vice President of Human Resources Lisa Riedel sent out a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notice late Monday. The WARN notice-mailed to Monroe County commissioners, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and union workers-states the first round of job cuts is set for Sept. 26, with the remaining jobs to be eliminated Oct. 11.

“The curtailment of operations will result in the loss of up to approximately 833 hourly and 149 salaried positions,” Riedel wrote in the document.

Loren Hartshorn, president of United Steelworkers Local No. 5724, had little to say about the WARN notice.

“You need to call Ormet,” he said.

Linda King, spokeswoman for the company, would only acknowledge Ormet’s distribution of WARN notices.

“The company has no further comment at this time,” she said.

The news of Ormet’s possible shutdown comes at a time when Monroe County’s unemployment rate is 12.6 percent, with Wetzel County showing unemployment of 14.3 percent. Both jobless rates would seem destined to increase in the event of an Ormet shutdown.

In a news release, Congressman Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio, called Ormet’s action “disappointing”.

“In this fragile economy and with the declining demand for aluminum, we’ve been concerned about Ormet. So, it’s very disappointing to see the announcement from this anchor employer in Monroe County that will result in up to 982 employees losing their jobs. We have and we will continue to help the company and its workers get back on their feet,” he wrote.

“I remain hopeful that the demand for aluminum will increase and that our neighbors and friends will be able to go back to work soon,” Wilson added.

Monroe County Auditor Pandora Neuhart said a halt to operations at Ormet could cripple her county.

“This could be devastating to the county’s finances,” she said.

Neuhart said 75 percent to 80 percent of the property taxes paid by Ormet go to the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, with about eight percent going to the county’s coffers. The remaining money is divided among several other functions.

“As long as they (Ormet) still own the property, they still have to pay the taxes on it, whether it is in operation or not,” she said. “Hopefully, they can survive and come back stronger than ever.”

In a related matter, an Ormet news release said the company has reached an agreement with alumina supplier Glencore Ltd. that calls for Glencore to pay unspecified damages to Ormet.

Company officials also declined to comment on this matter, but a paragraph in the release states, “Given current aluminum industry conditions, market prices, reduced demand for aluminum, and worldwide economic conditions generally, Ormet expects that further reductions in its production will be necessary. Ormet is actively exploring other measures to minimize costs and rationalize its operations.”

The news of Ormet’s pending shutdown also comes as plans to construct several new schools throughout Monroe County are moving forward. On May 5, Switzerland of Ohio Local School District voters approved a $35 million bond issue, providing the local share of funding for the $88 million initiative. Gov. Ted Strickland previously said about 1,000 new construction jobs are expected to result from the project.

Work for a new Monroe Central High School, a new Beallsville kindergarten through 12th grade building, and a new Powhatan Point Elementary is scheduled to begin in the fall. Construction at those sites should get under way by spring 2010 and site work for the three additional new buildings-a Sardis/Hannibal Elementary at the current River High School site, a new Woodsfield Elementary on site shared with Monroe Central along Ohio 78 on the west side of the village, and a new Skyvue Elementary at the current site of that school-should begin around that time. Renovations at River are set to take place in the summer of 2010.

School Treasurer Janet Hissrich previously said the owners of the Ormet property will be responsible for paying the taxes to support the school levy, regardless of whether the plant is operating.

(Jennifer Compston-Strough contributed to this report.)