3M plans to lay off nearly half of Columbia plant

Thursday, September 27, 2007 | 6:04 p.m. CDT; updated 11:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — 3M officials said Thursday that roughly half of the Columbia plant’s workers will lose their jobs by next summer.

The plant, located in north Columbia on Paris Road, will lay off as many as 200 hourly workers and 40 salaried workers by June 2008. About 500 people are employed there.

Top 15 Employers in Columbia

1. MU 8,002 2. University Hospital and Clinics 4,520 3. Columbia Public Schools 2,150 4. Boone Hospital Center 1,769 5. City of Columbia 1,220 6. State Farm Insurance Co. 1,151 7. Shelter Insurance Co. 1,040 8. MBS Textbook Exchange 947 9. Hubbell Power Systems Inc. 910 10. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 910 12. State of Missouri (excludes MU) 769 12. Columbia Foods Inc. 620 13. 3M 520 14. U.S. Postal Service 490 15. Boone County government 362 16. Square D 342 Source: Regional Economic Development Inc.

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The decision comes as a result of the company’s decision to transfer manufacturing of flexible circuits from Columbia to plants in Canoga Park, Calif., and Singapore, plant manager David Robinson said in an interview Thursday morning.

“We’ve had to retrench,” Robinson said. “It’s painful.”

The company will offer affected employees severance packages based on years of service, opportunities to relocate with 3M and help in finding jobs outside the company. Robinson described the efforts as “significant transitional support.”

Paul Reinerd, a designer-trainer made available by the company for comment, is among the employees losing his job. Reinerd, 50, also said he is eligible for 1 ½ weeks of pay for every year of service. He has been with the company for 10 years and 8 months.

Reinerd said workers have been talking about the layoffs for some time.

“There’s always rumors,” he said.

Reinerd lives outside Higbee with his wife, Michelle. He doesn’t know yet what he will do when his time at the Columbia plant ends, but he said he thinks 3M has treated him fairly.

“This management is trying their best to help everyone through this transition,” Reinerd said.

Employees approached for interviews in the plant’s parking lot refused comment.

Layoffs at 3M are not unprecedented. Last November, the Missourian reported the company would lay off 46 employees. In September 2003, the company said 124 employees would lose their jobs.

Rick Coy, branch manager at Manpower Temporary Services in Columbia, said layoffs such as this can have large effects on the local job market. Usually, companies are aggressive in helping their workers by holding job fairs with other employers and staffing agencies, Coy said.

3M will continue to produce electronic connectors as well as products used in the communication industry and for optical systems in Columbia . Robinson expressed confidence that the plant’s remaining jobs will be stable.

“We can succeed in businesses we continue to support,” he said.

Robinson said the decision was not based on the performance of the Columbia plant or its workers.

“This plant has achieved to an extraordinary level,” he said.

Bernie Andrews, president of Regional Economic Development Inc., said he is surprised by the layoffs.

“It’s a shock,” he said. “It’s a concern for the economy.”

However, he said Columbia still has a good business climate and overall good quality of life.

According to REDI, 3M is the area’s 13th largest employer. The report, on REDI’s Web site, was compiled in 2006.

3M, based in Maplewood, Minn., is perhaps best known as the maker of Post-It Notes, a revolutionary product introduced in 1980. The company, which posted sales of $22.9 billion last year, also makes components used in the health care and transportation industries.

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