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Tracy Frank, Published January 06 2009

DMI Industries to cut 60 jobs in West Fargo

Between Sunday and Monday, 60 people went to work at DMI Industries in West Fargo only to find out they were being laid off.

DMI Industries, a heavy steel wind tower manufacturer, announced Monday that it has reduced its work force by 20 percent across its West Fargo, Tulsa, Okla., and Fort Erie, Ont., facilities.

Hours have also been cut by 10 percent across the board and overtime has been significantly reduced, said Stefan Nilsson, DMI president.

“It is obviously never a good time to do, but from our side, we felt that it is better done in a fairly short period of time and that’s less difficult for all involved,” he said.

The cuts are due to declining demand because wind energy developers are not able to secure project funding given the increased difficulty in obtaining credit in today’s economy, Nilsson said.

Plant managers met with the employees who were being laid off as part of their normal shifts. The layoffs were effective immediately, Nilsson said.

Shirley Benson of Shelly, Minn., found out Sunday night that her position was cut. She had been with DMI for seven months and said it was a great company to work for.

“It’s like losing part of a family,” Benson said of losing her job.

Benson said she’ll be able to move on and find another job, but she feels bad for her coworkers with families.

Employees who were laid off will receive a three- to six-week severance package depending on their time with the company.

After the cuts, 360 employees remain at DMI’s West Fargo location. Nilsson said that is 30 more workers than at this time last year.

“You can say it’s sort of two steps forward and one step back from that standpoint,” he said.

Nilsson said no further cuts are expected and he is still very optimistic about the wind industry.

“We expect that if not before, at least 2010 and beyond will look better,” Nilsson said. “Many things point to that this is a temporary setback for the industry.”

Many of the former employees are welders, assemblers or painters, Nilsson said.

Brian Walters, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. president, said he does not know how quickly those workers can be hired by other companies.

“While maybe a year ago, I think, they would have been absorbed very quickly, I just don’t have the best sense of that today,” Walters said.

The concern he has is that the other employers that might typically take those workers are in construction and farm equipment, which is also experiencing declining demand.

Job Service North Dakota in Fargo has seen a few former DMI employees, said Marty Aas, customer service area manager.

The number of available jobs always slows in the winter, but he encourages people to start looking for a new job and apply for unemployment insurance as soon as possible because there is a one-week waiting period.

“It takes awhile to sink in for some people,” Aas said.

DMI, an Otter Tail Corp. subsidiary, has received reduced interest rates on loans for job creation in the past but the requirements have been more than fulfilled, even with the recent cuts, Walters said.

“They’ve been great corporate citizens; they’ve had a tremendous impact on our local economy through employment and tax base, both,” Walters said.

Nilsson said he does not expect other local companies to be affected by DMI’s job cuts.

“This is a setback, but it’s a temporary one,” Nilsson said. “This should go relatively unnoticed by our vendors and by those who work with us in the area.”

Both DMI Industries and Otter Tail Corp. are financially sound, Nilsson said, adding that when the market returns, DMI will be in a good position to capture a significant portion of the growth.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526