31 März 2009

USA: NatureWorks lays off workers

PLA-producer still goes ahead with expansion of capacity

According to a report from Plastics News, lower-than-expected sales growth has triggered layoffs at bioplastics resin producer Natureworks LLC, possibly as much as one-third of its workforce. Despite the layoffs, the company’s second 150 million pound line will come online at its Blair, Neb., plant as scheduled in mid-June, said Steve Davies, director of communications and public affairs for the company, which is based in Minnetonka, Minn.

That expansion will double annual capacity for production of the company’s Ingeo-brand corn-based polylactic acid to 300 million pounds. “But we don’t expect the plant to be running at a full rate” initially, said Davies. He said there has not been any cutback in Ingeo production because of the layoffs.

Six days before the layoffs, the company officially announced that it would begin a site search for a second PLA plant, which it expects to open 3-4 years from now. Davies said that before the layoffs, the NatureWorks workforce was roughly 120 and the majority of the cuts were in support staff. He did not provide a figure for the layoffs, but several sources told Plastics News that more than 40 people were laid off. “We have better sales than last year, but sales have dropped substantially from what we projected,” Davies said. “The state of the economy has slowed our sales. Our sales are less than we had planned. Oil prices are artificially low, consumer demand globally for all products has dropped and there in an over-capacity for commodity resins.”

Source: PlasticsNews, 2009-03-20.

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