Kennametal owner: All 153 in layoff notice won't be jobless

The new owner of the former Kennametal plant in Evans is unsure how many workers will be retained after Aug. 30.

Kennametal filed a mass layoff notice with Georgia saying 153 people will be laid off after that date, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be unemployed.

Dale Erkkila, a vice president with plant owner Top-Eastern Drill Co., said Wednesday that some of those employees will be hired by his company after an ownership transition period ends.

"As part of our agreement with Top-Eastern, Kennametal agreed to maintain approximately 150 selected Evans facility employees on a leased basis to Top-Eastern as they determine the best strategy for integration of the business moving forward," said Christina Reitano, a Kennametal corporate communications manager.

Mr. Erkkila said his company is "in the process of judging people's interest in staying on and seeing how much of the production we want to keep doing in Evans.

"It would just be irresponsible for me to try to predict a number. I think there's a chance a fair amount could either come into our company or perhaps there may be some type of contract work," he said.

The name of the plant at 470 Old Evans Road has changed to Greenfield Industries Inc. The division of Top-Eastern Drill already employs 135 people, Mr. Erkkila said, though most of those workers are in Clemson, S.C., a plant also purchased last month from Kennametal.

Top-Eastern Drill paid $29 million to acquire a Kennametal drill line and the rights to production facilities in Clemson, Evans, Mexico City; and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Mr. Erkkila said Top-Eastern Drill "does not want to shut down production in Evans" and the company is trying to make the plant profitable. He said, however, that the company is moving some production in Evans to Clemson to improve efficiency.

"There probably will be layoffs, not a significant amount, but we're trying to make efficiencies. Some things will move up to Clemson, and some of those (Evans) employees will probably come up to Clemson also," Mr. Erkkila said. "There's lot of great people here. We like them a lot, so we're going to do what we can. We have every plan to keep continuing on and keep as many people employed as financially makes sense. It's a very talented, very experienced workforce. It's one of the reasons our company was interested."

Plant employees would not comment when approached in the parking lot Wednesday afternoon, saying that they have been instructed not to speak to the media.

"We feel for the families that will be affected by this. And we hope that the impact would not be as great as it could be," said Troy Post, executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County. "At this point, we don't know how severe the impact will be."

Mr. Post said there was discussion Wednesday morning during the authority's monthly meeting of Kennametal filing its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice with Georgia.

He said there has been some outreach to the new ownership through his office and the county commissioners. The state has also been in contact, Mr. Post said, to offer support.

"We know some firms are going to go through a period of downsizing and restructuring. That's what is going on nationally and globally," Mr. Post said. "Our hope is that in the end we will still have firms that will keep a presence here, that they will still have some role to play in the local economy."

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

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