Janesville47.9°

Small communities prepare for closing plants

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GINA R. HEINE
August 30, 2008
— When more than 100 laid-off workers in Albany and Orfordville look for new jobs after their plants close in coming weeks, they’ll encounter a market with more opportunities than years ago, one expert said.

But it still won’t be easy.


“It’s a different job market now than what we experienced 10, 15, 20 years ago when someone was out of a job,” said Bob Borremans, executive director of Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.


“It was really, highly competitive. There were limited prospects. There are prospects out there now for people who have that good job history.”


Chromalox, a manufacturer of industrial heating products, said company restructuring is forcing it to close its Ogden Manufacturing facilities in the two small communities west of Janesville.


Steve Doyle, manager of both plants, said the Orfordville plant is scheduled to close around the beginning of October, though about half of the 30 employees were laid off earlier this summer. Albany’s plant, which employs about 80, will close around the end of the year, he said.


Employees have the option of transferring to a plant in La Vergne, Tenn., and two workers from Orfordville made that move, he said.


Employees will get a severance package based on seniority, but Doyle declined to release details.


Both buildings are for sale, he said, and the owners have an offer on the 25,000-square-foot building in Orfordville. Both are manufacturing plants, and the 35,000-square-foot Albany plant actually is three connected buildings, he said.


“If you could bring another company of (the same) sort, and turn around and hire another 50, 60 people, you’d be in great shape,” Albany Village President Larry Hanson said.


Hanson worked with Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, to set up an information session for workers this summer.


“It’s going to hit a lot of people pretty hard,” said Hanson, whose wife has worked at the plant for about 28 years.


Although a state rapid response team talked with employees, Albany wanted to provide additional assistance, Hanson said.


“We knew Ogden probably would do it, but we wanted to jump the gun a little to show the community is behind them to push the issue,” he said.


Orfordville Village President David Olsen said the village hasn’t done anything to prepare for the job loss or attract a new business.


“I’m sure it makes some kind of impact,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do.”


The workers are entitled to unemployment and additional benefits through the Trade Adjustment Act—similar to General Motors workers, Borremans said. The TAA provides additional resources, including retraining and reemployment services tailored to meet the needs of individual workers.


“As we’re seeing people retire, as jobs are changing, their employers are looking for workers to have a good, stable work history,” Borremans said. “Those people are highly desired by employers.”


Borremans’ agency coordinates services through job centers and other workforce development activities.


Health care, food production, transportation, warehousing and shipping all have been identified as areas with job potential in the Rock/Green county area, he said.


But some people may end up getting jobs that aren’t as close to home as they might like, he said.


“It’s going to be tough for people to find new jobs. I don’t think it’s ever an easy process,” he said.


“They may have to travel a little farther, but I think there are good jobs out there.”



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