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TAMKO lays off 32 in P-burg





PHILLIPSBURG -- Thirty-two employees of the TAMKO Building Products plant here were laid off Thursday morning in part of a company-wide restructuring program.

The restructuring was brought on by "several factors, the most significant being a dramatic and unprecedented industry-wide drop in demand for shingles during the last three to five months, with no rebound in sight," according to a statement issued by TAMKO spokesman Ron Cook.

Sales industry wide have fallen nearly 40 percent, according to the company.

The initial statement did not say how many people were laid off at Phillipsburg, or elsewhere within the company, but Cook confirmed 32 workers had been laid off.

There are more than 200 employees at the Phillipsburg TAMKO plant, making it one of Phillips County's largest employers.

The layoffs came as a shock to workers and the community, said Phillips County Economic Development director Jeff Hofaker.

"We've been somewhat spared from a lot of this, even though we had Brooke 11รขÑ2 years ago," he said. "So I think it kind of came out of left field. I don't think anyone was expecting it."

Phillipsburg was not the only victim of the restructuring, as the statement from Cook said it resulted in a reduction at corporate headquarters, in its field sales staff, warehouse operations and production facilities.

Even though he was hearing plenty on the street Thursday, Hofaker was struggling for information as well and had been told by local representatives to call TAMKO's corporate office in Joplin, Mo. TAMKO is privately owned and reveals little about its financial position.

"TAMKO remains financially strong and stable," Cook's statement reads, "but we must adjust to foreseeable demand."

"We are sorry about this most difficult decision," the statement goes on to say. "Given the dramatic downturn in the economy and the sudden and unprecedented decrease in our sales, however, there seems to be no reasonable alternative. TAMKO remains committed to the Phillipsburg plant and its employees."

Early on, Hofaker was hearing 32 employees had been laid off. And, he said, the unofficial word is the layoffs came from the plant's roofing felt operations.

Roofing felt is laid down prior to the installation of shingles.

"They actually ship the felt out to California to put the asphalt on," Hofaker said of the felt plant. "That's where I'm hearing the layoffs are coming from."

The layoffs are especially troubling news for Phillipsburg, which was just getting back on its feet after struggling through a bout with unemployment that hit almost 10 percent in the wake of the 2008 closing of Brooke Corp.

"We had some people that left the community because of that," Hofaker said. "But not as many as we expected."

Some of those remaining behind were able to find other positions in the community. Others went on unemployment or were forced to take other -- sometimes several other -- lower paying jobs.

Some of the Brooke employees, Hofaker said, were generating a second income, which simply was lost when the company shut down.

But from its peak, the Phillips County unemployment numbers had fallen to slightly more than 4 percent when the latest numbers were released last month.

The reduction in the work force at TAMKO will boost those numbers once again.

"It will be a huge hit for our area," Hofaker agreed.