Area's economy is looking up, despite recent layoffs

Sunday, August 4, 2013
Norika Covington, rear, and Weston Loveland work on their resumes Friday at Workforce Employment Solutions in Cape Girardeau. Covington, who previously worked in the day-care field, is searching for a manufacturing job to “just try something new.” Loveland hopes to find a welding job. (Laura Simon)

Within the next year, Cape Girardeau and neighboring Perry County will likely see a loss of at least 500 jobs because Sabreliner Corp., Integrity Solution Services and PolyOne Corp. facilities have announced closings and layoffs of employees.

But from a larger economic view, experts say the region may not feel those effects.

Local economist Bruce Domazlicky and former director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at Southeast Missouri State University, studies the job market and economic trends of Southeast Missouri.

Domazlicky has said the possible loss of 500 jobs may sound like an overwhelming number, but the effect "won't drag the whole economy down."

Domazlicky on Thursday said 500 jobs of about 55,000 total jobs in Cape Girardeau County is not even 1 percent. A major company employing thousands of well-paid employees would have to shut down for the county's economy to really take a toll, he said.

Domazlicky said he did not want to downplay the impact layoffs have on employees and their families. But because the economy is better, there are more job opportunities for the unemployed, he said.

Workforce Employment Solutions in Cape Girardeau was busy Friday. As job seekers filtered through computer applications, paperwork and interviews, each person had his or her reason for pursuing employment.

Norika Covington had been working in the day-care field for years, and she wanted to try something new, maybe manufacturing.

Christopher Irving recently moved to Cape Girardeau from Mississippi to be closer to family. He worked at a county jail, and was looking for something in the same field.

No matter how many prospective employees come in the door, Joe Rozier, president of Workforce Employment Solutions, said the company still struggles to fill available positions.

"Opportunity in this market is still really good," Rozier said. "We have more job openings than we can fill."

Being an employee with specialized skills definitely is a benefit when hunting for employment, he said, and employers look forward to finding those type of employees.

"The welcome mat is open for people with talent," Rozier said.

The Associated Press reported Friday that U.S. employers added 162,000 jobs in July. The gain was enough to lower the unemployment rate to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 percent.

In June, the unemployment rate for the state of Missouri was 6.9 percent. In Cape Girardeau County in June, the unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, the highest it has been since July 2012 when the unemployment rate was 6.9 percent, according to data from the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The loss of jobs in Cape Girardeau County will have an effect on laid-off employees and their families, but with an economy that is slowly improving, the odds of finding work for skilled workers are getting better.

Making the decision

Sabreliner Corp. is an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul services provider with an operating facility in Perryville, Mo. The company announced layoffs of 180 employees in November because of cuts in the national defense budget, and 80 employees were furloughed in March because a contract ended, said vice president of business development Steve Sperry in a previous interview with the Southeast Missourian.

On June 20, Sabreliner announced the layoff of 54 more employees at its facilities in Perryville, Ste. Genevieve, Mo., St. Mary, Mo., and Clayton, Mo. -- 29 of which were at its main facility in Perryville.

In a recent interview, Sperry said no more layoffs are on the horizon, but it ultimately is up to the government as to whether more layoffs will come.

"It's a combination of the economy and government spending," he said.

Though a few employees were recalled to work because of airplanes in need of repair, Sperry said the possibility of hiring back previous employees depends on whether quoted work proposals are awarded to Sabreliner by the government.

"It's a competition between us and the rest of those companies out there," he said.

Integrity Solution Services' office in Cape Girardeau, formally known as National Asset Recovery Services, faces a likely scenario of closing its doors for good after Charter Communications chose to end its business relationship with Integrity on July 11. Stacy Spradling, vice president of human resources for Integrity, said in an previous interview with the Southeast Missourian that Charter Communications decided to consolidate its customer service and call center operations and move them in-house. The Integrity call center employs about 400 full-time employees.

Spradling in a recent interview said companies have shown some interest in Integrity as new clients, but there no promising leads have emerged.

"At this point, it looks like Sept. 10 will be the day we will shut down," she said.

Until that time, employees are welcome to apply for other job opportunities; the company hosts job fairs every day, Spradling said.

"We're trying to do as much as we can to make sure they find jobs," she said.

Less than a week after Integrity's announcement, the PolyOne plant, 4753 Nash Road in Cape Girardeau, formerly known as Spartech, announced it will close its doors next year, leaving 90 employees without jobs. PolyOne Corp. is a global provider of specialized polymer materials, services and solutions. The closing is part of the company's efforts to "realign its North American manufacturing assets to better serve customers [and] improve efficiency," according to a news release from PolyOne.

PolyOne spokesman Kyle Rose said last week the company had no updates on the facility's closure, and management is trying to get a more definitive time for the closure.

"The facility is set for closure, and we're moving forward with that," he said.

Rose said the decision for closing the plant came after the company chose to realign its manufacturing process to be more streamlined.

Offsetting the losses

The loss of 500 jobs in such a short amount of time seems staggering, especially in a job market that does not have the best reputation.

But as the economy slowly grows, jobs are being added, Domazlicky said. This "hides or masks the loss of jobs" in certain sectors and "tends to offset losses to some extent."

Domazlicky estimated the city of Cape Girardeau has a population of about 38,000, and there are about 55,000 total jobs. This means 17,000 to 18,000 people commute to the city every day to work. Therefore, the cities where laid-off employees live will feel a larger economic effect because that's where a majority of their money is spent.

Cape Girardeau city manager Scott Meyer said as some businesses move on, other businesses move in to Cape Girardeau. He used Academy Sports and Menards as examples, along with expanding businesses such as local hospitals, the university and the opening of Isle Casino in Cape Girardeau.

"That's a reason it is so important that we work at building jobs all the time," Meyer said. He said Cape Girardeau continues to be "vibrant and sustainable," and companies look at many different locations to build their business; many pick Cape Girardeau as the place to invest their money.

John Mehner, president and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is continually marketing the area to prospective and expanding businesses, and companies always are looking at the potential of a skilled workforce.

The development of the business park at the Interstate 55-East Main Street/LaSalle Avenue interchange in Cape Girardeau will not be hindered by the availability of new buildings, Mehner said, because prospects come looking for one of two things: an existing structure or land to build a structure that suits their needs. That decision is made based on the nature of the business, he said.

"One's not going to hurt the other," Mehner said.

An expansion of the Perryville Industrial Park was announced last week. A few days later, it was announced that a FTS International sand mine and processing plant in Perry County will be idled in September, leaving 53 people jobless.

As jobs go out, jobs come in.

Mehner continues to be optimistic on the local job market and economy.

"I am always positive about what we can do in this in area, and I remain that way," Mehner said.

adowning@semissourian.com

388-3632

Pertinent address:

1390 Hwy H, Perryville, MO

2102 William Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

4753 Nash Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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