A Monday afternoon announcement about the closing of SunChemical Performance Pigments and the elimination of 30 jobs in Wurtland hit especially hard in the small city, according to Mayor Donna Hayes.
“This is a small community and we not only know the people who worked there, we know their moms and dads and wives ... we know their entire family,” Hayes said Tuesday morning.
Hayes said she had heard no rumblings about the plant closure and was caught off guard by the news when she received a call from the plant manager Monday afternoon. “The phone rang at the house and plant manager Bill Henley advised they are shutting down. That’s when they told the employees too,” Hayes said, adding she was soon fielding calls from many people including the employees whose jobs had been negated. The mayor said she holds strong sympathy for Henley, and did not envy his task of informing longtime employees about the closure.
“I think he is overwhelmed, too,” she said.
While the economic impact of the plant closure will have to be studied more closely before city officials know what issues and decisions await, Hayes said at least one consideration is certain.
“They were such a vital part of our community,” she said. “We know the wastewater treatment plant will need to be downsized.”
Hayes emphasized city officials are more concerned with the well-being of local residents and families who will feel the immediate effects of the plant closing.
“We are very concerned about these 30 people and the loss of jobs ... and the families — they woke up this morning feeling completely different,” she said.
Greenup County Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter also said the announcement came as a surprise and expressed his remorse that the county had no opportunity to try to keep the local operation in business.
“This kind of blindsided us,” he said. “They never asked us to do anything and I never had any indication they were having problems,” Carpenter said, quickly adding local officials remain ready and willing to do anything within their means to help the company remain in business locally.
Carpenter said the economic value of the company is difficult to gauge. “Let’s put it this way, you are losing 30 good-paying jobs. They were raising families on those jobs,” he said.
”It’s like losing part of the family,” Carpenter continued. “I just hate to see them go because they have been a good company; a good neighbor. Anytime you lose 30 jobs, it’s hard on everybody.”
The Wurtland facility had been in operation for more than two decades, although the plant did shut down for six months about five years ago. The local plant made blue ink for printers, and according to MacRae’s Blue Book industrial guide, Sun Chemical manufactures “Dyes, Colorants, Color compounds and dispersions, Carbon black, Inorganic metal oxides, Titanium dioxide, Organic pigments, Pigments, Chemicals including Bio Chemicals and Gas Materials.”
A few of the displaced employees will remain at work for four to six weeks to help close and clean the SunChemical Performance Pigments plant.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.