NEWBURGH, Ind. (AP) — Many in southwestern Indiana are worried about the impact of Alcoa's decision to cut 600 jobs as it shuts down part of its aluminum manufacturing operations along the Ohio River.
The concerns follow the company's announcement Thursday it would permanently close its Warrick Operations smelter by the end of March. While the company will keep some 1,200 people working at the facility about 10 miles east of Evansville, the layoffs will be a major economic event, said Warrick County Chamber of Commerce director Shari Sherman said.
"It's been here 55 years," Sherman told the Evansville Courier & Press. "So that impacts a lot of individuals, families and multi-generations."
The smelter being closed makes alumina, which is a raw material used in the production of aluminum. Alcoa will continue operating its rolling mill and power plant at the 9,000-acre site.
John Martin, Alcoa's vice president of U.S. smelting operations, said the company would try to minimize the impact of the job cuts and that the closing decision was necessary despite the efforts of employees.
"Our aluminum smelter here at Warrick Operations is still not competitive," Martin told WFIE-TV. "The price of aluminum has dropped about 30 percent in just the past year alone."
Charlie Wyatt, mayor of the nearby city of Boonville, worked at the Alcoa facility for about 30 years before retiring in 2013. He said he was "heartsick" over the job cuts.
"It's tough to get a good job with good benefits, especially like that," Wyatt said.
The Warrick Operations closure is the latest step Alcoa has taken in the past year to cut costs. The company since March has shut down similar smelters in Brazil, New York and Washington state.
Alcoa worker Lucas Ricketts said he would be losing his job after more than three years at the Warrick smelter and was upset with the short notice.
"It doesn't really make you feel like that you are a value to the company, an asset," he said. "You just feel like I'm just another guy, another number to put money in their pocket."