More than 80 employees at Waco’s Owens-Illinois glass plant will receive pink slips Nov. 7, three weeks before Thanksgiving, according to information released this week by the Texas Workforce Commission.
Owens-Illinois officials last week confirmed plans to shutter one of three furnaces used to produce glass containers at the plant on Beverly Drive. The plant employs about 350 people, and most make between $21.29 and $33.27 per hour, according to a contract with the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp., executed seven years ago.
The workforce commission on Monday posted the plant’s WARN Act notice, as required by law, showing Owens-Illinois notified the Heart of Texas Workforce Development Board of its plans to release 81 people in November. The company, based in Ohio, said it would shut down a furnace indefinitely because of lagging demand for beer bottles, which long have been the backbone of local operations.
“This particular furnace is dedicated 100% to producing beer bottles. The remaining furnaces will continue to produce some beer as well as spirit and food glass packaging,” company spokeswoman Leslie Orozco wrote in a statement last week.
The local economic development corporation, which is funded by the city of Waco and McLennan County, awarded Owens-Illinois an $805,000 grant in 2012, when the company was in the midst of a multi-year $74 million upgrade. About $8 million was earmarked for improvements to mitigate and monitor emissions.
Kris Collins, who recruits industry and serves as a liaison between the board of the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. and the city and county, said she continues to research the impact the layoffs might have on the agreement struck between the corporation and Owens-Illinois.
“We have not determined final impacts the layoffs may have on existing contracts as we are still awaiting information from the company,” Collins said in an email Tuesday. “However, I can share that the existing agreement with the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corporation required new jobs created maintain an average hourly wage of $21.29 per hour and the existing employment base maintain an average wage of at least $33.27 per hour. As previously discussed, the company has been in compliance with its agreement,” which expires next year.
Number of positions
The company was required to retain 280 positions and add 70 under the terms of the contract, Collins has previously said.
“Our contracts contain very specific information to address events like this,” said McLennan County Judge Scott Felton, who serves on the board of the economic development corporation with Waco City Manager Wiley Stem III and Bill Clifton, who represents the Waco Industrial Foundation.
“More than likely these layoffs will mean adjustments to the contract,” Felton said. “Owens-Illinois has been a good corporate neighbor, and we hope they can crank that furnace back up.”
Waco Economic Development Director Melett Harrison said Owens-Illinos is an iconic local industry and one of the few remaining union shops.
Local officials had Owens-Illinois and the Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in mind when they spent $4.7 million upgrading narrow, pock-marked Beverly Drive, which ties the plant to Loop 340 and to New Road.
Of that total, $1.3 million came from the city-county economic development fund, Harrison said.