Community leaders met Wednesday morning to discuss what resources and assistance may be available to Detroit Reman’s 113 employees following Tuesday’s news of layoffs and an imminent plant closure.
Senator Jeff Longbine, who was among those present at the meeting, told The Emporia Gazette that the chief concern was for the employees affected by the company’s decision to shutter the local facility.
“Our focus centered around the employees and what their future may look like,” he said.
Longbine said Emporia State University, Flint Hills Technical College and Southeast KansasWorks were preparing to assist employees as they re-tool and re-skill during the job search process. He said the group will continue talks with Detroit Reman executives to determine the concrete timeframe for the layoffs and plant closure, in order to better assist those affected.
“I thought it was a very good initial meeting, but there is very clearly a lot more work to be done over the next nine months,” he said.
City Manager Mark McAnarney said Tuesday’s announcement had blindsided him and his thoughts were with the employees and their families. He was also a part of Wednesday’s meeting.
“It’s a major [blow],” he said. “It’s very important to our community, so we’ll do the best we can to help. We’re working as a group to hopefully help those employees find some other opportunities in the community.”
The company, which remanufactures and rebuilds diesel engines, previously cut 75 jobs in Aug. 2009. At the time, it was reported the jobs would be moved to another facility.
Longbine, who was Mayor of Emporia at the time, said the 2009 layoffs prompted a WARN notice from the company — which is required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act under certain conditions.
A notice was not sent ahead to city leaders this time around. Longbine said he believed it was because of how Detroit Reman is staggering the layoffs.
“There is a threshold of the number of employees being laid off that triggers that required warning,” he said. “Because of how they are going to stagger layoffs over the next nine months, they are not going to be above that number, triggering that requirement.”
In 2014, the company expanded with an 80,000-square-foot warehouse facility. The city had approved $2.5 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds for the project at the time. The work was completed in 2016.
McAnarney said the city was not on the hook for the IRBs, but was in the process of reviewing its contracts with Detroit Reman.
“The city, with IRBs — we are a conduit,” he said. “It’s not our money. It’s private investments, but we are reviewing the contracts.”
Detroit Reman’s parent company, Daimler Trucks North America, said it is closing the Emporia plant in an effort to consolidate its production footprint.
Longbine said it was his understanding that the combined age and geographical location of the Emporia facility was a driving factor in the decision. Still, he said the announcement on Tuesday was “unfortunate.”
“It is my understanding that as a market across the country, they have seen a shrinkage in that market,” he said. “That has facilitated the need to close at least one manufacturing facility. Emporia was chosen partly because of its age, but more because of its geographic location. Most of their end customers are in the Upper Great Plains, so the transportation costs of getting those parts back up into Michigan was certainly a factor.”
Those affected by the recent layoffs can call Southeast KansasWorks at 342-3355 or visit sekworks.org for more information on assistance.