Plant workers worried about Ormet layoffs

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The jobs of at least two hundred plant workers in Ascension Parish hang in the balance. Employees at Ormet's Burnside plant could lose their jobs if the company's manufacturing plant in Ohio fails to renegotiate its contract with a power company.

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said he grew up on the property. Then it was Orange Grove Plantation. Martinez said ormet helped set the foundation for a chemical corridor that is now home to 26 plants in the parish.

"I can remember Ormet being a good company back then and people really enjoyed working with them and they were talked about very highly in the community," Martinez said.

Martinez's current executive assistant, Red Loupe, worked at the Ormet terminal for nearly 30 years, from 1963 to 1992.

Ormet has closed its doors and re-opened before. But Loupe said, this time, he believed the plant was staying open for good.

"I was very shocked because they had a great plan when they came here to talk to Tommy about wanting to come back to Ascension to re-open the plant," Martinez said.

Part of that plan, put together just last year, included a potential $2.5 million performance-based loan through the Louisiana Economic Development Loan Opportunity Program.

Back then, the state estimated the project would result in millions of dollars in tax revenues, including $10.8 million locally over the plant's next ten years. But not even a year later, production is being brought to a stop.

"They are good tax payers. They've been good neighbors to us, and I hope this is a temporary thing," Martinez said.

Governor Bobby Jindal's administration approved the arrangement. Jindal said, Wednesday afternoon, while decisions made by the plant's management regarding a dispute in Ohio will ultimately determine the local plant's future, Louisiana taxpayers' money is well protected.

"The good news is Louisiana Economic Development, in every agreement they negotiate, all incentives are performance based, and the state would get all of our money back. So, our money is not at risk, but that is not really an issue. Our biggest concern is keeping those jobs," Jindal said.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.