Stillwater's National Standard plant will lay off workers as a result of the economic downturn.

President Rob Kukowski, in National Standard's Niles, Mich., headquarters, told the NewsPress Friday there is no talk of closing the plant and he hopes the jobs will return when the economy improves.

He declined to discuss the number of employees that will be affected, stating they were hoping to inform our employees of how it's going to impact them over the next two weeks.ù

Kukowski said it was important to inform them before discussing it with the media.

'This is something that pains us, but you have to adjust your output to match the demand,‚Äù Kukowski said. ‚ÄúThe common enemy is the economic downturn, which is just brutal."ù

Production of weld wire will stop in the Stillwater plant but increase in National Standard's Niles, Mich., plant.

Kukowski said that is to take advantage of economies of scale and to move production closer to customers.

"The equipment this is done on, there is a tremendous amount of utilities and cost in natural gas and electricity to keep these machines in a warm and running process capacity,"ù Kukowski said. "You don't just turn them on and off like a light switch. They have start-ups and shut-down procedures. If you don"t use them continuously, there is a lot of fixed costs.

"The goal on those types of equipment are always to use them and have them fully loaded 100 percent of the time, because then you don’t have any start-up or shut-down inefficiencies."

He said even though demand for weld wire is down, there is no reason to think the Stillwater plant will close because it does mostly tire bead wire "The heart and soul of that plant is the tire bead industry,"Kukowski said. "We're very committed to that. We are one of three people in the entire United States that make that product. Even though that market is down, the Stillwater plant will continue to be a critical plant to support that industry."ù

Kukowski also said they will maintain "the ability to make (weld wire) products in the future in Stillwater. ... It's not like we're closing the plant or selling off assets. What we are doing is basically we have excess capacity in both plants."ù

Welding wire is a joining material used in different welding processes, he said.

Stillwater Chamber of Commerce economic development Director Josh McKim said the company had to do what was best for its business.

'tI's not something we're overly excited about, but those things happen," McKim said. "It's sad.‚"

He said he did not know how many jobs would be lost or when. He also said he had had no discussions with anyone in town about closing plants."

Calls to Rebecca Grooms, human resources at the Stillwater plant, seeking comment and the number of employees at the plant were not returned.

The NewsPress was told that National Standard's Stillwater plant superintendent is out of town and unavailable for comment.

Kukowski said he expects to have more information in the coming weeks.

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