As layoffs spread, Portage works to aid jobless workers through workshops and programs

Deanna Stevens

With the reports of Giant Eagle and the RB&W Corp. plant in Kent closing, there will be about 80 people laid off in the next month alone and more than 100 people by June.

Portage County Job and Family Services director Anita Herington said the Portage Workforce Connection will conduct a “rapid response” workshop tomorrow to help those workers at the RB&W plant cope with the layoffs.

Becky Porcase, Portage Workforce Connection manager, said the organization is going to speak with the management of the plant and let it know about the services available.

She added that they will check SCOTI, a statewide job listing system, to see if any jobs are available that coincide with the ones people will be losing. The Portage Workforce Connection will also do an assessment of the employees to see if they qualify for its training services.

Herington said plant employees are in an especially hard spot because they have been doing that type of work for so long.

“We give them the skills they need,” Herington said. “We set them up with SCOTI, and we help them with job interviewing skills because they haven’t been interviewed in so long.”

Manufacturing at the Park-Ohio Holdings Corp.-owned RB&W plant, located at 800 Mogadore Road, will be moved to Toronto in June, according to a letter by plant manager Drew Huff. The plant manufactures fasteners for automotive companies. The first set of layoffs begins on March 31.

Bob Cook, representative of Local 2 of the United Steelworkers union in Akron, said there will be 79 people laid off all together, according to the Record Courier. Cook said the union will meet with management in a few weeks for “effect bargaining” to see what kind of severance will be available for the employees.

“We’ve applied for a TAA,” Cook said. “It’s the Trade Adjustment Act, which is subsided by federal government. If our work goes off-shore, then the employees are entitled to some sort of subsidy by the government.

“About 40 percent of our work is going to Canada,” Cook added. “About 40 percent is going to China and Taiwan, and the other 20 percent is just going to get laid-off.”

According to the Plain Dealer, Edward Crawford, Park-Ohio’s chief executive officer, said the company is making the move to Toronto because it can then produce materials more cheaply. Crawford was unavailable for comment about the possibility of the portion of the company moving to China.

Herington said this outsourcing of companies has greatly affected the county.

“Manufacturing and small machine companies, which are big in Portage County, have been hit really hard by international trade,” Herington said.

In Giant Eagle’s case, Porcase said it appears the majority of the laid-off workers will be transferred to other store locations. But the organization is meeting with the store management now to see if its services are needed.

When there are situations of closings in the area, Porcase said it is normal for the Portage County Workforce Connection to go out to the place that is shutting down.

“The state is notified (about the closing) and we go out from there,” Porcase said.

Contact public affairs reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].