By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The Ruskin Manufacturing Plant in Fairmont will shut its doors around July 31, 2014.
On Monday, the company announced its intentions to close the Fairmont site, which has been in business for 16 years. The location’s 185 employees, including office and plant personnel, will all be affected by the shutdown. The workers were notified of the plans Monday.
“The company thanks all of the Ruskin Fairmont employees for their hard work and dedication over the past 16 years,” a press release said.
The local operations will be shifted to Ruskin sites in Lexington, Ky., Geneva, Ala., and Parsons, Kan., in the coming months. The news release cited the decline of commercial construction markets compared to a few years ago, without any substantial recovery anticipated in the near future.
“As a result, many industries like ours that rely heavily on commercial construction have been adversely affected in this country and this continues to affect our business as well,” the release stated.
The company said it’s evident that the improvement of the markets will not be quick and will impact the industry as a whole. Ruskin’s Fairmont and Lexington, Ky., locations, which serve the Northeast markets, have been hurt the most.
“The sustained economic challenges in the commercial construction segment require us to continue to adjust our manufacturing capacity accordingly,” the news release said. “It is apparent that we have excess capacity, particularly serving the Northeast U.S. service area.”
Deborah Meredith, WorkForce West Virginia’s state coordinator for rapid response, said she called Ruskin in Fairmont but hadn’t had any direct contact with the company as of late Monday afternoon.
“WorkForce West Virginia does have meetings for dislocated workers to advise them of all the services available to them through the state and federal government,” she said.
Meredith explained that the WorkForce West Virginia state office gets involved with any company closures that impact 50 or more workers or involve a union operation, no matter how many employees. Ruskin falls into both of those categories.
While the state will be coordinating the efforts, the Region VI Workforce Investment Board will also provide assistance.
“Locally, we will be there to assist those employees any way we can,” said Barbara DeMary, executive director of the Region VI WIB.
Even if people haven’t been laid off yet, they can begin the steps to look for retraining options, she said.
Region VI has offices in Fairmont at 320 Adams Street, Suite 107, at Veterans Square; in Bridgeport at 16 Sterling Drive; in Morgantown at 304 Scott St.; and in Elkins at 1023 North Randolph St. Each location has counselors who can talk to individuals who want to be trained with Workforce Investment Act dollars and can determine if they qualify, DeMary said.
WorkForce West Virginia provides scholarships, totaling $6,000 each, for up to two years of training for jobs that are considered demand occupations, she said. Interested individuals must apply.
DeMary said individuals who are laid off are considered for these scholarships, which for the most part train people who don’t already have credentials or degrees that are marketable. More than 60 training programs have been approved by WorkForce West Virginia.
On-the-job training is also available for dislocated workers, who are connected with an employer to work on skills that allow them to find a permanent job, she said.
“We want very much to work with all of those workers and help them as much as we can,” DeMary said. “We most definitely will do whatever we need to do.”
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.