[Nameplate] Mostly Cloudy ~ 83°F  
High: 88°F ~ Low: 72°F
Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Economy affecting local industry

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The country's economic crisis is continuing to affect local industry.

For the second time in four months, Dixie Chopper has cut it staff. In late June, the company let go 30 of its 160 employees.

On Thursday, 27 more workers were laid off. None of the workers have been given any indication of when -- or if -- they will be called back.

"Embroiled in an industry-wide downturn exacerbated by growing U.S. economic woes, Dixie Chopper has regrettably announced an employee layoff," a release from the company said. Dixie Chopper President Gary Morgan announced the layoffs during an all-employee meeting at the company's Fillmore plant, saying, "It was a business decision that Dixie Chopper had to make."

He told the workers he hoped he could get them back to work "real soon."

"This is what keeps me awake at night," Morgan said. "This is a solemn occasion, and we will do everything in our power to make sure it does not happen again."

Like the rest of the manufacturing industry, Dixie Chopper has seen the economic landscape change drastically during 2008, the release said. In the spring, it was $4-a-gallon gasoline and unpredictable weather that conspired to slow mower sales.

More recently an overall weakened economy, fueled by the housing crisis, has prevented a rebound by most U.S. manufacturers.

Greencastle-based Buzzi Unicem, Indiana's largest producer of cement, has been able to avoid layoffs at the local plant, but has done some belt-tightening in other locations.

Plant manager John Cass said two of the company's Illinois facilities will shut down on Dec. 1. One of those facilities will likely re-open in June.

"We have no plans for any layoffs at the Greencastle plant," Cass said.

Russellville's Metal Forming Industries is a small employer that manufactures electrical components. Although no layoffs or staff reduction has been necessary, owner Pollard Staley was hesitant to say that would never be the case.

"Our business has been relatively the same for three years," he said. "It's pretty flat and hasn't really changed at all. That's because we're not in the automotive industry."

Staley said he could see the economic crunch having a trickle-down effect.

"Eventually, it's going to catch up to everybody," he said. "We're all in this together."

Cloverdale's Putnam Plastics is hanging in by maintaining minimal staff.

"We haven't laid off, but we also haven't added staff," said Administrative Vice President Debbie Underwood. "We're pretty much working with a skeleton crew. People have quit and we just haven't replaced them. We're at about 53 people."

Underwood said Putnam Plastics closed facilities in Alabama and Illinois in order to keep the Cloverdale plant going.

Greencastle's International Automotive Components, a subsidiary of a Dearborn, Mich.-based company, has remained mostly unscathed so far.

"We've had to take a number of layoff actions in a number of plants across the country, but it doesn't appear that we've had to do anything significant in our Greencastle location," said Dave Ladd, executive director of marketing and communication. "At least not recently."

Local companies aren't the only ones feeling the pain of the sagging economy -- many big-name companies have found themselves in a similar situation. Kohler Engines, John Deere, Caterpillar and even Time magazine and the Indianapolis Star have announced layoffs.

Meanwhile, Bobcat will close its Carrollton, Ga., plant next month, eliminating 147 jobs, while Husqvarna is cutting 850 jobs and Whirlpool has eliminated 5,000.