Wind blade manufacturer Siemens has announced it will lay off 407 workers at its plant in the southeast Iowa city of Fort Madison. Tim Gobble, executive director of the Fort Madison Partners – the local Chamber of Commerce group, says they knew there might be layoffs because of the looming expiration of the federal wind energy tax credit.
“We’d an idea that it was going to be happening, we didn’t know to what magnitude at this point,” Gobble says.
According to Gobble, his office was notified at the same time the employees were told of the layoffs.
“They did says that the first wave would be happening about 60 days — it may be a little bit longer — but they are anticipating about 60 days before the first one would be let go, so that’s right into the holiday season,” Gobble says. “It’s tough on a community of this size…we can’t really absorb the unemployment the way a bigger city could.”
After the layoffs, 220 people will be left at the plant and Gobble says there is always the hope that those who get laid off will be able to come back to work.
“They have told the employees that they have call back rights up to two years. They’re hoping obviously that it is going to be temporary, that once the federal government decides what they want to do on the alternative energy and wind production tax credits that business starts back up, that obviously they will bring some of these employees back,” according to Gobble.
Gobble says they are already mustering resources to help the employees who will lose their jobs. “The Iowa Workforce Development office as well as the community college will be coming in and doing calls directly to the plant to help the employees that are affected,” Gobble says. “And I know that Siemens itself was talking about having the ability for those who are affected to have the opportunities for schooling and educational opportunities as well as the benefit packages that go along with the severance pays.”
Gobble says they have not had layoffs of this magnitude in Fort Madison since 2001 when the Wabash Trailer Company closed and Schaeffer Pen scaled back.