Ormet announces 200 layoffs in Ascension

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Ormet Corporation says about 200 of its 250 employees at its facility in Burnside, Louisiana will be laid off starting in November. 

The facility produces alumina, a white powder that is used in the manufacturing of aluminum.  The product made at the Burnside facility is shipped along the Mississippi River to Ormet's aluminum manufacturing facility in Ohio.

Ormet CEO Mike Tanchuk says lower prices for aluminum sales and the higher cost of electricity in Ohio have already led the company to lay off employees in Ohio.

Tanchuk says about 50 employees will likely be retained at the Burnside facility to "keep the plant maintained."    He says he anticipates the layoffs will only be temporary.

A WARN notice was issued to all 250 of the Burnside employees Tuesday.   According to the U.S. Department of Labor, WARN offers protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.

"They've been talking about it for quite some time, a few months," said employee Randy Ducote. "I was telling one of my co-workers it's hard to go to work to a place when you don't know if you're going to be there next week or next month."

The plant reopened last year after being idle since December 2006.   The State of Louisiana gave Ormet an incentive package to reopen the Burnside facility that included a performance-based loan of $1.5 million as well as a five percent refundable tax credit worth nearly $1 million.   

Louisiana Department of Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret indicated its too early to talk about whether any of that state funding would have to be repaid.

"The extent and duration of the curtailment of operations will be strongly dependent upon the progress with Ormet's power contract negotiations in Ohio," Moret said.  "We reached out to our counterparts in Ohio to emphasize that a successful resolution to power contract negotiations in Ohio would assure uninterrupted operations of both facilities, as well as the preservation of hundreds of existing jobs in both states."

When the plant announced its reopening last year, Governor Bobby Jindal called it "great news and a tremendous economic boost for Ascension Parish and the Capital Region."

"We hope they resolve it because it was a good place to work," said Chester LaPorte

Ormet first opened in Ascension Parish in 1958.

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