Confirming earlier public warnings, Kettering auto parts producer Tenneco has told the state it will close its Woodman Drive plant, ending 597 jobs.
In a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice (WARN) letter that Ohio made public Wednesday, John Penn, Tenneco’s learning and development manager, told the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that Tenneco Automotive Operating Co. Inc. will discontinue all operations at the 2555 Woodman plant by Dec. 31, 2023.
“This action is expected to be permanent in nature and affects non-union and union-represented employees. Tenneco currently employs 597 total union and non-union employees at the facility,” Penn wrote in the letter, which is dated April 11.
This is in line with what company leaders said in November.
But while the plant will be closed by the end of 2023, layoffs will start this June, the company said.
Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Tenneco has been one of Kettering’s largest employers, and the city has been in touch with the company since the closing was announced, City Manager Mark Schwieterman said Thursday.
The closing “process is fluid, and Tenneco has been keeping us advised as much as possible,” he said in an email. “Anticipated dates are offered, but nothing is ever set in stone until the company releases it to the public.”
After November’s closing announcement, the city started forming a group of local and regional agencies to put a plan in place to assist displaced workers, Schwieterman said.
It reached out to Montgomery County, Sinclair Community College, the Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Chamber of Commerce to “combine expertise and resources available when Tenneco employees need it,” he said. “Tenneco is equally concerned about its employees and has been working with us, as well.”
Given economic factors such as recent market oversaturation of shock absorber production and higher steel prices and material costs, it doesn’t make business sense to continue production at the Kettering plant, a Tenneco spokesman told the Dayton Daily News last year.
All positions will be permanently eliminated in waves beginning June 12, 2022, or 14-days thereafter and continuing through Dec. 31, 2023, Tenneco told Ohio.
A schedule for all job eliminations is not known at this time, Tenneco said, but the company also said it will provide each affected employee (directly or through a union representative) at least 60 days’ advance notice of the separation date.
“We believe there is a path for Tenneco and Apollo to keep these jobs in our community,” Carl Kennebrew, president of the IUE-CWA union that represents Tenneco workers, said in an email Thursday.
Apollo Funds entered into a pact to acquire Tenneco in February.
“Our workforce is highly skilled and well-trained, and they have helped make this company a success,” Kennebrew said. “Tenneco has received millions in tax subsidies, yet they are looking to move operations to Mexico and China, where the company can exploit workers with low wages. These workers and our community deserve better.”
Asked if the union was talking with Tenneco about the possibility of keeping the plant open, Kennebrew said he would welcome the chance to do that.
Meanwhile, the city has met with Tenneco to discuss what employees may need as the closing date draws nearer, Schwieterman said.
“In conjunction with our community partners, including workforce services providers, Kettering and the region are ready to offer education, skilled trade training and job opportunities to help employees prepare and advance during their next chapter,” he added.
Tenneco’s Kettering operations accounted for about 800 jobs in 2020, city records show. Jobs were down to about 650 when the closing was announced, officials said.
Yet Tenneco has remained a significant source of income tax revenues for the city. Income tax receipts account for about 79% of Kettering’s general fund, the 2022 Kettering budget states.
The Tenneco site is “a fantastic location for a number of businesses,” Schwieterman said. “There is a need for industrial space in the Dayton market, and we are optimistic that there will be a quick turnaround.”