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Job creation is slow going

Melissa Topey • Oct 1, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Profit is typically the key health measurement for any American business.

By this measure, American businesses are healthy, one Ohio economist says, but job creation is still on bed rest. “Corporate profits are at record all-time highs, but employment is not at an all-time high and neither is payroll,” said Key Mayland, president of ClearView Economics in Pepper Pike. “Employment is not back to 2007 levels,” Mayland said. “During the recession, we lost 8 million jobs, and we have recovered 6 million.”

Translation: Businesses surviving the recession have slimmed down, producing more product with fewer employees.

The Register revisited some area businesses that laid off workers or otherwise reduced their workforce amid Great Recession, about five years ago. Their stories are a snapshot of what is being seen nationwide and in the state, Mayland said.

“You’re seeing a real mixture of results that are a microcosm of the entire economy,” he said.    In February, Mayland predicted slow economic growth of 1.5 percent for 2013 — slower than the 2.2 percent growth of 2012. So far this year, economic growth is at 1.7 percent.

For 2014, Mayland is forecasting economic growth of 2.5 percent to 2.75 percent. “I’m thinking it’s time for the economy to break out,” he said.

The Register checked in with area businesses whose employees were laid off or terminated during the financial turmoil locally and nationally five years ago.

Here’s where they stand today:

Ottawa County Riverview Healthcare

The nursing home laid off 29 fulltime and 10 part-time positions in 2008. Kendra German, the nursing home’s administrator, said these positions were never filled.

The facility now operates with about 170 employees, and administrators and staff have learned to do more with less. They are meeting their bottom lines by closely watching costs and staffing levels.

IAC, Huron

The company announced in 2008 that about 225 were being placed on temporary leave, and an additional 120 were on indefinite layoff through January 2011. At the time, the plant had 480 hourly workers.

The company has come back strong since the dark days of the recession. Today it employs about 675 people — 594 hourly, 79 salary.

“These are much healthier numbers than I remember that we had back in 2010,” said Dave Ladd, executive director of communications for IAC. “This is due to strong rebound in the North American auto industry, combined with new programs that came into the IAC Huron location.”

Company executives plan to invest more than $5 million into the local plant over the next three years.

KBI, Perkins Township

In 2008, HHI purchased Delphi, renaming the company KBI. The same year, 758 employees were temporarily laid off.

Today there are about 500 hourly employees and 80 salaried at KBI.

Whirlpool Corp., Clyde Division

In November 2008, Whirlpool said about 250 to 300 midnight-shift employees would be temporarily laid off. The company currently employs about 3,000 people, and produces about 21,000 washing machines.

Freudenberg-NOK, Milan

In 2008, when Freudenberg relocated some work to Florida, it eliminated 43 workers at its Milan facility, leaving about 240 people employed there. It has since grown the workforce.

“Employment in Milan has grown steadily since that time, and now stands at 320,” said Cheryl Eberwein, a spokeswoman for Freudenberg. “Milan operations are strong.”

The company continues to add employees to meet the needs of its industry customers, she said.

A. Schulman, Bellevue

In 2008, A. Schulman moved to eliminate 34 positions —nine salaried, 25 hourly. That left 51 union workers and 24 non-union at the Bellevue plant, where employees went on strike the following year.

Last year, Mitsubishi Chemical Performance Polymers purchased A. Schulman. When Mitsubishi took over in December, 70 former A. Schulman employees retained their jobs, said Anita Reinhart, Mitsubishi’s human resources manager. The company also received a grant to create 25 jobs over the next three to five years. The Bellevue facility has hired 16 new employees, putting the workforce total at 86.

Janesville Acoustics, Norwalk

In early 2008, Janesville laid off about 110 employees. The company closed its Republic Street plant in 2012. This year, Janesville announced plans to shutter the remaining Norwalk factory, as the company is moving operations to Kansas, Missouri or Nebraska. This will leave 296 unemployed locally.

Union officials are trying to fight the plant’s closure, and they secured an ally in U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who this week penned a letter asking Janesville executives to reconsider the move.

Tenneco Automotive, Milan

Before leaving town in 2009, Tenneco once employed 300 to 400 people. When it announced plans to move the factory to Mexico, there were still about 80 employees in Milan.

In February 2011, the Colorado-based roofing manufacturer Johns Manville purchased Tenneco. Brian Keiser, plant manager for the Johns Manville location in Milan, said 56 hourly employees work there along with 13 salaried employees.

Company officials anticipate growth in the next few years, and they plan to hire up to 10 more employees next year, Keiser said. When the factory reaches its full production, it should have an hourly work force of about 80 people.

ACH, Margaretta Township

The ACH plant evolved from Ford to Visteon. ACH was formed in 2005 as a temporary business managed by Ford, for the purpose of restructuring its operations and then marketing former Visteon plants for sale.

In 2008, talks of a sale to Michigan-based Meridian Automotive Systems fell apart, sparking fears Ford would shutter the ACH plant. The company laid off about 260 employees during the holidays.

In April 2009, amid the recession, ACH had fewer than 600 employees. The factory started to come out of the decline by the end of 2010, adding about 200 workers to the payroll as the automotive industry recovered.

In May 2012, Illinois-based Flex-N-Gate purchased ACH, renaming the plant Ventra Sandusky. At the time of the sale, about 950 fulltime employees remained at the facility.

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