Employees Laid Off At Wellman Plant

Wellman opened it's fiber production line in February, Now ten months later it's closing, putting 135 people out of work.

"This is the type thing a plant manager never wants to have to go through, to tell very good employees that we no longer have employment for them," Wellman Plant Manager Pete Woody said.

The plant also produces these small pellets which are used to make plastic bottles and containers. Employees who work on those production lines won't be affected by the layoffs.

"We're disappointed to say the least," Hancock County Board of Supervisors President Rocky Pullman said.  "We feel Wellman has been a good asset to our County."

Board members borrowed $5 million to make improvements at the port needed to accommodate the Wellman plant. State economic development leaders put up $35 million as an inducement bring the plant to the Coast. Part of the agreement says the company must have at least 150 employees in it's first phase. Even with the layoffs the plant will have about 180 employees.

"This development is a disappointment for Wellman and the State," Woody said.  "None of us win from this sort of situation.  We do feel like we've met the commitments that we had in the inducement agreement.  Keep in mind Wellman invested well over $400 million in this plant."

As for the workers, Woody says a severance package will keep them on the payroll until mid February, even though the fiber production ends this month.

Officials say those laid off from Wellman will be the first called back to work if  the company decides to rehire.  But Woody says until the fiber business bounces back, there will be fewer people working at Wellman.