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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hydro shutdown could cost 140 jobs

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hydro Aluminum announced plans to close its extrusion operation in Monett on Wednesday. The move will eliminate 140 jobs. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
In the biggest industrial jobs cutback to hit Monett in a dozen years, Hydro Aluminum has announced the closing of its aluminum extrusion operation in Monett.

Employees received the news from management on Wednesday morning.

At stake is 140 jobs. Shutdown of the extrusion division will take place on or about Oct. 15. Hydro will maintain its remelt operation, which employs 60 people.

According to a statement released by Hydro, profitability of the Monett extrusion site has been an issue for years, despite internal improvements.

"Demand in the U.S. market has picked up this year, but we are still challenged by over-capacity in our industry," said Matthew Dionne, president of Hydro's North American aluminum extrusion business. "It is unlikely that the Monett plant could perform in a sustainable manner moving forward."

"Monett's main market is residential building and construction, which has been a weak market for a number of years," said Kevin Widlic, corporate communications spokesman with Hydro's office in Linthicum, Md. "The outlook is for more of the same."

The Monett plant has two extrusion presses in addition to painting capabilities. Even if the economy improved, it was unlikely the extrusion operation would reopen in Monett., Widlic said. What will become of the factory building has not been decided.

The remelt operation provides material for the commercial building and construction market, which has not been as badly impacted by the economy.

"The remelt and casthouse are very much part of our plans," Widlic added.

Plant Manager Bob Sharpe said the disposition of the 25-person management team, some of whom shared duties with both the remelt and the extrusion operations, has yet to be determined.

"We're going to spend the next two weeks trying to take care of our employees," Sharpe said. Contacts were being made with state employment officials to assist in the process.

"For two weeks after that, we'll try to take care of our customers," Sharpe said.

EFCO Corporation, a Pella company, will be unaffected by the change. Mindy McCombs, vice president of human resources for EFCO, who also works in purchasing, said EFCO has not acquired extruded aluminum from Hydro in five years. Continuation of the remelt operation will continue to serve EFCO's needs, McCombs said.

WinTech, another Monett-based window manufacturer located across the road from Hydro, relies on the manufacturer for its extruded aluminum. WinTech spokesperson Mary Lemings said company leaders were still assessing the situation.

"We're concerned about our neighbor and the loss of jobs, especially in a comunity of this size," Lemings said.

Monett Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said the closing of Hydro's extrusion operation would "be a hit" on the city's electricity revenues. Because of the amount of industry in the city, the percentage reduction would notbe critical to city income, Rauch said.

Wells Aluminum began extrusion operations in Monett in December 1964. The remelt division began operations in July 1970. Wells was acquired by Revere Copper and Brass Inc. in 1968. Norsk Hydro, the largest aluminum extrusion company in Europe, acquired Wells in 2000 and completed a major upgrade in Monett in 2003. The Cassville plant was consolidated into the Monett operation in 2009.

At the same time as the decision was being made about the future of the Monett plant, Hydro is expanding its aluminum fabrication service in Phoenix, Ariz., and bringing jobs back from Guaymas, Mexico. In an unrelated decision, Hydro announced on Wednesday that its extrusion plant in Portugal was sold to the same company that previously acquired Hydro's rolling mill in Spain.

"When we decided to close the Monett plant, it was based on the future outlook," Widlic said. "We didn't want to envision this happening."

The loss of the Hydro extrusion operation represents the largest loss of jobs in Monett since the closing of Jumping-Jacks Shoes in 2001. Wells Aluminum represented the second heavy industry to come to Monett outside of the food and garment business.

H.C. Beckwith, the Wells plant manager from 1964 to 1987, went on to serve as Monett's mayor. Beckwith is credited with modernizing the city's infrastructure and gaining industry cooperation that continues to the present day.

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