45 workers laid off at Hebeler

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 10, 2002

[06/08/02]Vicksburg’s economy has taken another hit with the layoff of 45 workers at Hebeler Vicksburg Corp.

General manager Dan Hobbs said company officials announced the pending layoffs to employees about six weeks ago and actually let the workers go on Tuesday. The layoff represents about 42 percent of the plant’s workforce. The company had about 120 people working before the layoff.

Hebeler, which is based in Tonowanda, N.Y., came to Vicksburg in 1990 and began making pressure vessels with about 25 employees. In the intervening years, the local operation began building modular equipment used in the construction of gas turbine powered electric generating plants and expanded to a peak workforce of about 140.

“Hebeler’s business at this site has been to serve the power generating industry,” Hobbs said.

The collapse of Enron in December and the general decline in the nation’s economy since then has caused a reduction in the demand for the turbine-powered plants, Hobbs said. This resulted in a decline in the demand for the modular devices Hebeler makes.

Hobbs said Hebeler hopes to bring the people laid off back.

“But we don’t know when or how many,” he said.

Hebeler officials are searching for additional business they can get into, Hobbs said, adding they have a skilled work force and all the engineering, design and technical staff to take on virtually any project.

“We are seeking to attract other business to this plant and are also working to diversify our customer base,” he said.

The Hebeler layoffs are the latest in a series of bad economic news for Vicksburg.

In March, it was announced that Vicksburg Chemical and Exide Technologies were joining the Big Kmart here in closing down. The closing of the store and the two manufacturing plants resulted in some 250 jobs being lost in the area between then and the end of May. The closings of Kmart and Vicksburg Chemical were caused by bankruptcies and Exide said it was restructuring the company.

In April, the Anderson-Tully Co. announced it was laying off 118 people in its engineered wood division because it needed to make changes in the process of making a line of laminated wood flooring. ATCO officials last week said they were beginning to return some employees to work as the process changes are made. They said they hoped to have most if not all employees back at work within about three months.