Auto bailout good news for local employer

President Bush’s announcement last week that the federal government was extending loans to General Motors and Chrysler is good news for the local economy.
Kansas City boasts two car assembly plants, with a General Motors plant right across the river in Kansas and the Ford Plant in Claycomo. Both plants employ local workers.
But even closer to home is Richmond’s Henkel operation that supplies rubber parts to all three automakers.
To local Henkel officials, any help for the carmakers is welcome.
“Any help that our customers receive is also good news for us,” said Henkel Human Resources Director Bill Downs.
For the last several weeks, many autoworkers have been concerned that they would even have a job to go back to after the usual holiday shutdown period. Although Ford has not received any help from the federal government so far, some local workers are optimistic about the future of Ford. Henrietta Mayor Hiram Todd works at Ford and said he expects production to step up after the first of the year. The plant makes Ford’s F-Series trucks and the Ford Escape SUV.
Although some workers are optimistic, about 140 workers at Claycomo’s Ford plant took voluntary buyouts earlier this month.
Downs said that Henkel has also offered some of its employees early buyouts in addition to some involuntary layoffs. In both cases, Downs said employees were offered severance packages and outplacement services.
“It is important to us that we treat employees displaced by these changes with the utmost respect for their service to the business,” Downs said in a statement.
In order to reduce layoffs, Henkel has taken some other measures to eliminate costs without eliminating jobs. In a released statement, Downs said some changes include realignment of responsibilities and moving from a five-day to a four-day workweek in some areas.
Downs said in the statement that the long-term viability of the company in Richmond is solid.
“While these are difficult times, we are taking these steps to ensure the long-term viability of this business and facility,” Downs said in a statement. “The Richmond location will weather this economic storm and remain in operation.”

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