In Feb. 12 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
Growth and prosperity were all that they'd known at Hitachi Cable, nationally and especially in Russell County.
Kentucky Plant Manager Gary Miller said he had never had to layoff anyone, in the seven years they have been in Russell County, until last year.
As the economic downturn hit the automotive industry, the local plant was completing the work of that had been done at an Indiana plant the corporation had closed.
This week Miller said the corporation has told him that the plant in Russell County would be closing in 2011.
The local operation was already reduced to 2-shifts, and less than 100 employees, Miller said.
"The situation is going from bad to worse," Miller said of the industry.
He lists off the repeated layoff notices amongst the big-three automakers, 10,000 this week at GM and 23,000 at Chrysler. Then there is the recent layoff announced at Nissan, 20,000 world-wide including at least another 300 in Tennessee and he added that Hitachi has announced that 7,000 of their workers are being laid off world wide.
"It is a sad moment," added the 22-year veteran at Hitachi. "I'm not even sure what I'm going to be doing."
He said that the plan is to keep the workers they have now to fill the orders they have and begin closing down the plant.
"Its terrible," Miller said. "This downturn was the first time I've ever had to lay anyone off."
Russell County Industrial Authority Director Gene Royalty said the decision to close the plant came from the top of the corporation, and was not likely to be reversed.
"A couple of years ago they purchased a 256,00 square foot building in Pensacola when they bought-out a competitor," Royalty said. "They are going to combine several plants into that one."
He said the company leased the building in the industrial park from the authority, and though they had a option to purchase at a reduced price Royalty said they have not exercised that option.
Plant closings are known to have a ripple effect in the smaller local businesses, but they also impact local government.
"I got a call from a friend in Woodford County," Royalty said. "Two plants are closing there. That county gets 9 percent of its budget from occupational tax. This is going on everywhere and it isn't over yet."
He said Hitachi has volunteered to help the county market the location, but he can't start that until they know exactly when the plant will close.
If they don't exercise their purchase option the building would remain the property of the industrial authority.
Royalty said there have been more layoffs locally, and he is trying to get a handle on just how many jobs the county has lost due to this recession.
"Its going to effect county and city budgets," Royalty said. "Its not over yet unfortunately."