Laid-off workers to receive help finding jobs
By Jennifer Kotila
HUTCHINSON, MN Gov. Mark Dayton and Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Mark Phillips were in Hutchinson Wednesday, meeting with the CEO and leadership of Hutchinson Technology and local elected officials.
HTI announced March 8 it would lay off 600 of its 1,225 workers in an effort to cut costs, moving production of the suspension assemblies the company manufactures to Eau Claire, WI and Thailand.
Dayton met with the company leaders to find out more about its decision to close production in Hutchinson.
“I want to talk with the chief executive and find out if there’s anything we can do from Minnesota’s standpoint to address those problems or concerns,” Dayton said.
The meeting with HTI leaders was an informative and instructive one, Dayton said during a press briefing following the event.
When the company was formed in 1985, there were 34 companies throughout the US that manufactured disk suspension assemblies, Dayton said he was told by HTI leaders.
Now, there are only four throughout the world, and the other three are based in Asia.
Prices for the company’s products declined by 1 percent each week in 2010, Dayton was told. Since 95 percent of its customers are in Asia, it is moving its production there to cut costs, Dayton said.
“Unfortunately, people in Thailand are willing to work for a fraction of the price as those in the US,” Dayton said.
The state will provide as much assistance and support it can to help the workers affected by the layoffs find new jobs, Dayton said.
DEED’s ‘Rapid Response Team’ was already working with the company and planning programs for those affected by the layoffs, and began working directly with employees who will be facing layoffs Thursday, Phillips said.
Programs will be customized to each individual worker, and may include job placement, retraining, and other counselor-approved services.
Out of the 700 people that were laid off from HTI in 2009, 200 have completed their programs through DEED and have been placed in the workforce, with 95 percent of them making more than $40,000 per year, said Anthony Alongi, director of DEED’s dislocated worker and trade adjustment program.
The company is open to working with the local community in filling unused space with new businesses to provide jobs, said Hutchinson Mayor Steve Cook.
For example, at its Sioux Falls, SD facility, which is no longer used by the company, some of the space is leased to a bank call center, Cook said.
At the Hutchinson facility, an early learning facility is already leasing space, Dayton said.
HTI leaders said the company has already been contacted by about 35 companies within a 50-mile radius that are interested in giving jobs to some of the workers who will be affected by the layoffs, Dayton said.