Hundreds of workers in two Iowa communities are preparing to hunt for a new job as executives confirmed this weekend that Electrolux plants in Webster City and Jefferson will be closed.
The washer and dryer facility in Webster City employs 850 and is scheduled to close for good in the first quarter of 2011. The Electrolux facility in Jefferson will close by the end of 2010, putting 45 people out of work.
“It’s really, really difficult, you know, we’re going through a downturn not only here in the state of Iowa, but around the country,” State Representative Rich Olive told KQWC Radio in Webster City. “But to have layoffs of this magnitude is just devastating I know both for the state of Iowa and especially for those people who work at Electrolux, now trying to figure out what the next step is.”
Olive, a Democrat from Story City, and other lawmakers who represent the Webster City and Jefferson areas will meet with state economic development officials this week.
“One of the things we’ll take a look at: Is there any way, of course, that we can retain any of these jobs? That’ll be our first step and if that’s not possible, you know, we’ll be looking to make sure that the employees there receive all of the benefits that we do provide,” Olive said. “Here at the state, you know, we have job training funds available so that we can retrain the workers if need be.”
Electrolux executives cited declining demand for washers and dryers are one of the reasons for the plant closings. However, Electrolux will add jobs at its plant in Juarez, Mexico, as the jobs in Iowa are eliminated. Over the past year, over a thousand jobs have been eliminated at the Webster City plant.
Many workers who lost their jobs when Whirlpool closed down Maytag operations in Newton took advantage of government programs that subsidize community college tuition so they could train for another career.
“We’ll be going through that entire process and meeting with company officials as well,” Olive told KQWC.
Governor Culver issued a prepared statement this weekend, saying “Electrolux’s decision to close its plants in Webster City and Jefferson, and send these jobs to Mexico is difficult to understand,” especially for those who’ve worked at the plants and who will lose their jobs. Culver said Electrolux executives never contacted state officials to discuss ways to keep the jobs from moving to Mexico. Culver says his new Department of Economic Development director will try to arrange a metting with the Swedish manufacturer to discuss “all possible means to reverse this decision.”
(Reporting in Webster City by Pat Powers of KQWC Radio.)