Local leaders discuss what’s next following Daramic closure

July 10, 2024 | 12:08 am

Updated July 10, 2024 | 12:13 am

Photo by Ryan Richardson

A total of 156 employees will be terminated effective September 6 due to Daramic’s closure of its plant located just east of Owensboro, though the facility has already ceased operations. Local leaders have called the sudden closure saddening, surprising, and disappointing. They are now turning attention to the future, with some touting the strength of the local workforce and others hopeful to bring in new jobs.

Owensboro Times was the first to report about the closure on Monday evening. Company officials told OT the local plant was one of the company’s “less efficient production sites” and had a “lack of long-term profitability.” Representatives with the Local 726 International Brotherhood of Boilermakers said the news was a complete surprise. Read the original story here.

Owensboro Times on Tuesday obtained a copy of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) Act notice sent by Daramic to the Kentucky Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions’ Rapid Response Team.

The letter notes that Daramic permanently closed its plant located at 5525 KY 2839 and all operations there ceased on July 8. The company refers to the facility as its Owensboro Plant, but it is technically located just east of city limits.

The letter notes that 156 employees — including 122 bargaining unit members and 34 non-bargaining unit members — will be terminated effective September 6. 

Daviess County Judge-Executive Charlie Castlen said he got a call at 12:36 p.m. Monday informing him about Daramic’s closure. 

At the time it was unclear exactly how many people would be losing their jobs. Castlen told Owensboro Times during a phone call Monday evening that the most recent data he could find showed there were 160 employees in 2021 and that Daramic had paid an occupational tax of $100,000 that year. 

“They’re pretty-good-paying jobs for Daviess County, and it’s certainly a loss to our community and certainly a loss to the immediate families that were employed there,” Castlen said. “… For the overall community, these are what we would call in the economic development world ‘primary’ jobs because the bulk of the sales of their product were not made here in Daviess County. So all these wages, that’s new money into our community. It’s certainly a help to our community anytime we have a company like Daramic that’s here, and it’s certainly a disappointment (for them to cease operations here).”

Castlen said as soon as he heard about the closure, he called Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation President/CEO Claude Bacon and asked if he had heard the news. 

“He said he had not, and I told him I felt very comfortable with the news I had been given that it was accurate,” Castlen said. “He said their staff would immediately jump in and start trying to compile a job list that matched the skill sets of folks that worked there at Daramic and try to match them with openings that exist here in Daviess County already. Hopefully, these people can all find work soon.”

Bacon did not respond to requests for comment on Monday afternoon and evening. On Tuesday morning, he sent the following statement via text message: 

“The closure of Daramic’s Owensboro plant and the subsequent loss of jobs represent an unfortunate event for the community. This event not only disrupts the livelihoods of the affected workers and their families but also impacts local businesses that rely on the plant’s operation. Our priority must now be to support displaced workers through job placement services and retraining programs while attracting new industries to revitalize the local economy and create sustainable employment opportunities.”

Bacon did not respond to follow-up questions about potential similar job opportunities for the employees who lost their jobs, the economic impact of the closure, any potential economic development projects coming to the area, or actions GOEDC might be taking to land new jobs.

Castlen said he thinks there are a number of openings in Owensboro-Daviess County and is hopeful the Daramic employees will be able to find something quickly.

“I don’t know that they’re gonna match up job for job, but I know since I’ve been Judge-Executive I’ve heard it said that we have well over 1,200 openings. That includes (various professions) … so that’s not going to be a match for match, but hopefully some of the jobs are,” he said. “That’s what we’ll work to do, is to help the folks. Unions are pretty good at trying to help their fellow union members find a place to land, so hopefully between their efforts and our efforts working together we can lessen the burden on the families and make that worry time as short a time as we can.”

Candance Castlen Brake, President and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, praised the local manufacturing community and said it will continue to thrive because of the dedicated employees.

“We have already heard from existing manufacturers in the region who are reaching out to Daramic officials to connect and fill openings in their respective operations,” Brake said in an emailed statement. “We know above all else that our manufacturing community is one of the strongest in the country.  We have premier manufacturers who choose to expand here because of our workforce.”

Brake said Daramic has been a Chamber member since 1967.

“We were surprised and saddened that Daramic announced on Monday that they were closing. Thousands of men and women in our region have devoted their careers to contributing to the success of the company,” she said. “Now that the WARN notice has been served, our community — particularly our workforce organizations and business community — will have the opportunity to find meaningful employment for the displaced workers, some of whom have spent decades working there.”

She added, “The Chamber stands ready to work alongside its members and our workforce partners to create a pathway for our neighbors and to support our existing industries.”

Michelle Drake, Green River Area Development District Director of Workforce Development, said there are “plenty of employers that are looking for individuals to work” in Daviess County and surrounding areas.

“The manufacturing industry has definitely bounced back since COVID,” she said. “It’s terrible that Daramic is closing its doors, but there are many other manufacturing facilities that are looking for employees.”

GRADD partners with the Kentucky Career Center to provide free resources for employment, workforce information, education, and training in the Green River District. They also have a “Rapid Response” team that assists employees who get laid off.

“The traditional way we do it is we do it before people are laid off, therefore they have an opportunity to know what to expect once they are laid off. Of course, this is a situation where individuals are being displaced due to no fault of their own, so they’re going to more than likely qualify for unemployment benefits,” Drake said. “When someone is faced with a job loss, they’re immediately thinking, oh my goodness, my income is gone, what am I going to do until my next paycheck? The first thing that people think about is unemployment insurance.”

She said many people don’t know the first step in filing for unemployment, so the Rapid Response meetings address how to go through that process — such as what documents they’re going to need and where and when they file.

Drake said the Kentucky Career Center and Rapid Response team also offer training opportunities for various workforce sectors. 

While Castlen noted that it would be ideal to have job openings that match the skill sets of the employees who have been laid off, Drake said that’s not always a necessity.

“In the past, when we’ve dealt with dislocated workers, we found that (some of them) will go into a whole, completely different field,” she said. “We’ve had folks that were laid off from manufacturing fields that decided, ‘Hey, I want to go into a new field where maybe this won’t continue to happen.’ Through our program, we can help individuals get that training.”

Drake added, “There are training opportunities that are available to them. There’s CDL training that starts every week. There’s our local community college that will start in August, and those people that would want to go back to school, it’s very possible they could start school in August.” 

Drake said she’s in the process of contacting Daramic’s corporate human resources department. She said she hopes her office can be the one reaching out to the employees with resources rather than the employees having to search for information on their own.

“What we want to do is reach those employees so we can have a meeting here at the Career Center,” she said. “It is my hope that we will have their contact information and we will be contacting them directly.”

Employees who have lost their jobs, whether it be from the Daramic closure or otherwise, can visit kccgreenriver.com or call the local Kentucky Career Center at  270-687-7297 for more information. 

Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson provided a brief statement on the closure, saying in a text message, “It’s always disappointing when you lose a longstanding corporate citizen. We wish them the best and look to fill that spot.”

During the Monday evening phone call, Charlie Castlen answered questions about the lack of economic development projects being brought to Owensboro-Daviess County.

Gov. Andy Beshear has for the last couple of years consistently touted the state’s economic growth and has made numerous announcements regarding business development projects. Coincidentally, a release from his office on Tuesday noted that Beshear has announced more than 1,000 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling nearly $32 billion in announced investments, creating more than 54,700 jobs.

Daviess County has noticeably not been among those announcements, while several nearby counties — including Henderson, Hancock, and Ohio — have.

“As an elected official here locally, that is certainly a disappointment,” Castlen said.

Asked if he knows of anything in the pipeline for Daviess County, Castlen said, “There are no developments that I can announce.”

Castlen, who is a GOEDC board member, said there is work to do to help make sure Daviess County remains in the conversation for major economic development.

“We were just talking at one of our recent meetings about some of the changes that we might want to make to help our situation,” he said. 

While he didn’t get into specifics, Castlen said some ideas included going to conferences and making direct connections as board members, community leaders, and employees with the people who are decision-makers when it comes to economic development projects.

Brandon Mattingly, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said in an email Tuesday afternoon: “The news of Daramic’s closure in Owensboro is unfortunate and it is a priority for us at Team Kentucky to work closely with community leaders to ensure those impacted have access to quality job opportunities. We will continue to partner with leaders in Daviess County and the surrounding region to bring more quality job opportunities to the area. We are confident that the Owensboro community has a bright future and will continue to be a major part of Western Kentucky’s growth.”

Mattingly also wrote: “The Green River Area Development District, of which Daviess County is a part, has been a major contributor to our state’s economic success with more than 50 new-location and expansion projects announced totaling nearly $1.5 billion in new investments and more than 1,500 full-time jobs being created during this administration.”

Daramic began as the Dewey & Almy Corporation, USA, in 1930 and was acquired by W.R. Grace & Co. in 1954. In the late ’60s, they invented the polyethylene separator in Owensboro, which quickly became the first location to manufacture the separators. 

According to its site, Daramic operates eight manufacturing facilities and seven sales offices globally. The plant located east of Owensboro served North, Central, and South America.

July 10, 2024 | 12:08 am

Share this Article

Other articles you may like