PARKERSBURG - Staffing cuts at a plastics plant are worrying the Wood County Development Authority.
Authority President Keith Burdette said the agency is concerned for the future of SABIC Innovative Plastics, which last week announced it was laying off 80 of 220 workers at the Washington, W.Va., plant in April.
"They have reduced the size of that company by almost half," Burdette said. "This is problematic."
Burdette said the authority doesn't have any false hopes for the plant, but officials want to know how SABIC's plans for the plant fit Wood County in the next two to 10 years.
"We think there is some opportunity there," he said. "We hope the company would look at them. Maybe there are other operations we could look for at this site."
The company doesn't plan to close the plant, said Shelia Naab, a SABIC spokesman.
"That's not in the plans at all," she said. "That hasn't been discussed."
SABIC bought the former GE Plastics three years ago. General Electric bought the plant, formerly Borg-Warner, in 1988.
At one time the plant was the largest maker of ABS plastics in the world, Burdette said. But employment at the plant has shrunk, starting when it was purchased by GE, he said.
From a workforce of 800 employees, "SABIC has an enormously under-utilized plant," Burdette said.
The company is restructuring the plant to make it more cost-efficient and competitive, Naab said. The company is accepting voluntary layoffs, then involuntary notices starting in mid-April.
Production of two resin products will be transferred to a SABIC plastics plant in Ottawa, Ill., where the product can be produced cheaper than in Wood County, Naab said.
Because of the economy of scale, the Ottawa plant is more efficient, according to Naab, because it can produce larger quantities than the smaller batch facility in Wood County.
"We need more than a batch facility to make this," Naab said.
Burdette said he has not spoken with SABIC officials. He has asked officials with West Virginia Economic Development Authority to talk with company officials.
Naab said SABIC understands the local concern. Steps taken are a result of economic conditions that have impacted manufacturing, she said.
If conditions change, it's possible - albeit not foreseeable at this point -product lines could be transferred to the Wood County plant, she said.
"We don't know what the future holds," Naab said.