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47 lose jobs as pipe plant closes

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By Geoff Hamill

 

The closing of a local manufacturing operation has left 47 people unemployed.
North American Pipe Corporation, a Houston, Texas-based company, announced on Tuesday that it would close the doors of its Springfield plant. Production has reportedly already stopped at the local plant.


NAPC had been in Springfield since 1969, according to Hal Goode, executive director of Springfield Washington County Economic Development Authority. Goode said he and other local officials got word of the closure last Tuesday, shortly after the company told employees.
“Their officials came in and we met with them yesterday morning,” Goode said Thursday. “They wanted to inform the employees before they told the community. Due to the fact that the economy had not resurged, or revived, as they had hoped for it to, and from the research they had been doing, they didn’t see it getting any better in the future. They decided to close one of their nine plants, and it was Springfield, one of the oldest of their nine locations.”
Goode said production has stopped, and senior management will remain on site to wrap up business and close out the local operation in August.
Officials from NAPC did not return telephone calls, but an e-mailed statement was sent by David R. Hansen, senior vice president  of administration for Westlake Chemical Corporation, who said closing the local pipe plant came after a great deal of research.
“It is never an easy decision to make and we are very mindful of the impact this closure has on our dedicated employees in Springfield,” Hansen said. “However, after a careful analysis of our operating costs, the market demand for our products produced at this site and our ability to meet our customer’s needs through the production at other sites, we selected the Springfield site for closure.”
Like many companies, Goode said NAPC is facing business challenges. He said company representatives told him the sewage pipe and infrastructure business is not what it was at one time.
“They have a number of challenges, and one of them is the orders of the big sewage pipes they have. They had to look at how they were going to deal with those challenges, and unfortunately, that came to this plant. We worked with them to try to reverse that, but were unsuccessful,” Goode said.
The prime concern now is the 47 employees who have lost their jobs, according to Goode. He said NAPC will be sending a special response team to assist those employees, and local and state organizations will assist in that effort. The Kentucky Office of Employment Training, along with the Washington County Adult Education Center, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, and St. Catharine College will all be involved in helping the displaced workers find their way back into the workforce. The special response team will help the displaced employees with resume building, interviewing skills and more as they prepare to re-enter the workforce.
“A separation package has been provided to all employees at the site to help them transition to other employment.  The separation package includes severance pay, continuation of health coverage and access to outplacement assistance,” Hansen said.
With 42 years in the community for NAPC, many of its local employees had a long tenure on the job, with some being there the entire time, according to Goode. He said the average amount of time on the job for senior management was 22 years, and the newest of that group was the plant manager, who had been on the job five years.
Goode said SWEDA has been in contact with local manufacturers, including INOAC Automotive, and he said the company is currently interviewing prospective employees, which could help those who have lost their jobs at NAPC. Goode said the automotive industry has started to get busy again following some slower times, especially in the wake of the March tsunami in Japan.
SWEDA is also trying to market the building that was home to NAPC, and Goode said the Cabinet for Workforce Development is aware of the vacancy. He added that SWEDA will be marketing the building to prospective occupants to bring other manufacturers to Springfield. He said there has been some success in recent years with marketing vacant buildings, most notably the old Parker Seal and Wheaton building, which is now home to a distribution facility for Bluegrass Dairy, and the recently vacated Akebono building in the local industrial park, which houses an expansion for INOAC Automotive.