Workers return to 3M

The local plant has recalled employees it laid off last fall.
Thursday, February 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:37 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hoping to expand its business in the electronics and communications markets, 3M has rehired almost all of the manufacturing plant workers the company laid off last fall.

Marty Ingels, human resources manager for 3M, said all workers who were laid off were recalled, and most have chosen to return to work.

“We’ve offered jobs to all of the people who were laid off, including maintenance personnel, although it may not be specific to the job they were doing,” Ingels said.

The 3M plant, 5400 Route B, is looking to bring in temporary personnel as well, he said.

Between Oct. 10 and Nov. 21, 3M laid off 124 workers in Columbia, the biggest round of layoffs in the plant’s history. The layoffs were blamed on lowered demand for flexible circuits, the main item produced at the Columbia plant. Flexible circuits are a key component in printer cartridges and cell phones. 3M’s largest customers of flexible circuits are the printer manufacturers Lexmark and Hewlitt Packard.

Flexible circuits are designed to reduce the size and weight of electronic products. They are used in everything from computer disks to hearing aids to cellular phones.

Ingels said the rehiring process, which began shortly after the layoffs, was triggered by “an increase in demand for our products, particularly the electronic products.” He declined to say what new customers the plant has acquired for its flexible circuits.

Good for local economy

Bernie Andrews, president of Regional Economic Development Inc., said the rehiring is great news for the local economy since 3M is one of the top manufacturers in the area. Andrews said because 3M employs a lot of subcontractors, the rehiring will have a positive impact on other local businessesas well.

Andrews said he likes to see a diverse local economy from office to medical to manufacturing jobs. He hopes that the rehiring by 3M means the volatile electronics market has stabilized and will provide a more consistent employment base.

“It’s good to maintain an employer like State Farm with office jobs,” Andrews said, referring to the insurance company’s decision last week to bring about 300 new jobs to Columbia in the next 18 months. “But it’s good to maintain the manufacturing jobs, too.”

Ingels said that a large part of the turnaround for the Columbia plant has been employee dedication to executing the company’s growth strategies.

“We couldn’t have done this turnaround without their support,” he said. “Many have increased their days and hours to support a 24-hour and seven-day production need in this business.”

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