Just a month after United Alloy announced it was breaking ground on a new Texas plant that would bring a corporate hiring spree to Janesville, the local manufacturer apparently has laid off dozens of workers here.
United Alloy, which makes customized industrial boxes and tanks, announced Friday it was laying off 39 people in Janesville, a city official said.
Economic Development Director Gale Price said United Alloy officials reached out to the city Friday with news of the layoffs. Price said he couldn’t discuss details, but the layoffs come as some manufacturers face a reported downturn in production because of uncertainty among investors.
United Alloy announced in December it planned to break ground this year on a new manufacturing plant in Seguin, Texas, that officials said would mean dozens of hires at the company’s sales and marketing office.
It’s not clear why United Alloy has laid off workers or which areas of the company are affected. United Alloy has a number of welders who work on a factory floor that the company has said is less automated than other local industries.
Company officials did not immediately respond to Gazette requests for comment Friday.
One top financial officer at United Alloy told The Gazette in December she was confident enough in the company’s growth that she was building a new house in Janesville.
She said the company had planned to steadily add jobs here over the next few years. And she said United Alloy would keep its corporate and sales headquarters in Janesville despite its expansion in Texas.
City data show the company averaged about 355 employees last year. As of December, United Alloy reported it had 401 employees.
The layoffs encompass about 10% of United Alloy’s workforce.
Over the last few years, United Alloy forged a set of tax-increment financing deals with the city during a period of expansion in which the company doubled its plant size and added workers.
United Alloy manufactures products for large companies that use its metal boxes and tanks in large equipment and in structural electrical systems.
However, according to late-2019 data from the Institute for Supply Management, manufacturing dipped to its lowest levels since June 2009, when the U.S. economy was reeling from the Great Recession.
That data is based on the institute’s manufacturing index, which in part examines fluctuations in orders for manufactured goods.
Price said he has spoken with local bankers who have talked about a slowdown in manufacturing.
In addition, investors have been rattled in recent days because of the impeachment proceedings, emerging security threats in the Middle East and a coronavirus outbreak in China.
Price said United Alloy’s layoffs are “an anomaly” locally. He said he has not heard of other manufacturers shedding workers.
Price said he also has not heard any talk of a recession. Economists consider a recession any downturn in the economy that lasts three quarters or longer.
He said he had been in touch with workforce officials at the Rock County Job Center over the likelihood that as many as three dozen skilled or semi-skilled laborers might be looking for retraining opportunities.