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Ormet Merits State Assistance

October 3, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Earlier this year, officials of the Ormet Corp. sought assistance from JobsOhio, the still-new organization formed to spearhead job creation and retention in the Buckeye State. The proposal was rejected.

Now, however, Ormet has laid off 92 workers at its aluminum plant in Monroe County. JobsOhio officials should take another look at helping the firm.

Ormet issued "WARN notices" to its workforce this summer, stating it might have to lay off some or all of the about 1,000 employees at the local plant. WARN notices - the acronym stands for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act - are required by federal law.

Higher prices for the electricity that is a major part of the cost of producing aluminum, combined with unfavorable market conditions for the metal, were blamed by Ormet.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio officials already have said prices Ormet must pay for electricity are set, at least for now.

That left workers at the company with few options. They chose to send Gov. John Kasich a petition bearing more than 2,500 signatures, seeking the governor's help to avoid massive layoffs at Ormet. Kasich's office referred the matter to JobsOhio. A spokeswoman there told our reporter the organization "did not feel we could go along" with Ormet's proposal earlier this year.

Things have changed, however. Just a few weeks ago, layoffs had not yet occurred at the plant. Since then, 102 Ormet workers have been laid off, though 10 were recalled recently.

State financial incentives, perhaps including tax breaks, could be provided to help Ormet over what appears to be a very bumpy section of road. Coping with both higher electricity prices and a depressed market for aluminum is a one-two punch.

Aluminum markets are notoriously cyclical, however. What has gone down is likely to go up in the future. If Ormet can be given at least some temporary help from the state, until aluminum prices rebound, it may be able to find ways to cope with higher electric bills.

As we have noted many times in the past, Ormet provides direct support for more than 1,000 Ohio Valley families, with many more relying indirectly on the company. Without property taxes paid by Ormet, local government, including schools, in Monroe County would be devastated.

Ormet has weathered many storms during the past couple of decades. Workers and management there have worked wonders. Now they need help, and it is appropriate that the state provide it.

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