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Published May 31, 2009, 12:00 AM

John Deere plant in Valley City cuts 89 jobs

Workers to keep benefits during furlough
The second-largest employer in Valley City, N.D., has temporarily cut 35 percent of its work force.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

The second-largest employer in Valley City, N.D., has temporarily cut 35 percent of its work force.

John Deere Seeding Group in Valley City furloughed 89 full-time employees Thursday. The company says it plans to bring them back this fall.

“It wasn’t a total shock because of what the economy’s doing,” said Valley City Mayor Mary Lee Nielson.

“When John Deere Seeding started up in Valley City, they had seasonal layoffs all the time. It was just in the past couple of years that they hadn’t had the seasonal layoffs.”

Keith Hovland, John Deere Seeding Group general manager, said the company will continue to pay health, vision and dental benefits for the assemblers and welders until they return or their status changes.

Some workers are being reassigned and some will take pay cuts, he said.

Nielson said it’s “wonderful” that the company plans to continue to pay health benefits to furloughed employees. She said that also shows the company’s commitment to rehire the workers.

“You’d rather have them working year round, but seasonal layoffs, it’s just the way it is,” Nielson said. “They’ve been great corporate citizens since they’ve been in town, and we hope this is just a seasonal layoff and that things will get back to normal again.”

Workers at the Valley City John Deere plant assemble air-seeders, machinery used in planting.

The layoffs are the latest in a long list of cuts in the manufacturing industry.

Other recent local manufacturing cuts include:

  • Alien Technology, the California-based “smart tag” manufacturer, plans to close its Fargo inlay manufacturing plant in the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park by early June. Approximately 22 people have lost or will lose their jobs.

  • Trail King Industries Inc. announced in mid-May that it is temporarily closing its West Fargo semitrailer production plant June 8 to Aug. 3. In March, 36 employees were laid off at the West Fargo Trail King plant.

  • In late April, Bobcat laid off 250 hourly and salaried workers in Bismarck and Gwinner, N.D. Bobcat is a West Fargo-based construction equipment manufacturer. Bobcat blamed reduced worldwide demand for its products.

  • Wind tower manufacturer DMI terminated 100 workers in early April, following the layoffs of 60 employees in January. Credit markets started freezing late last fall and funding became unavailable for wind farm developers, DMI President Stefan Nilsson said in a prior news story.

  • Caterpillar, which has manufacturing plants in Fargo and West Fargo, announced plans in March to cut costs through temporary factory shutdowns, voluntary and involuntary layoffs and temporary layoffs. Caterpillar makes construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines.

  • Case New Holland in February announced plans to cut 140 jobs effective March 16. Case New Holland manufactures agricultural and construction equipment.

  • In February, SJERhombus, a Detroit Lakes, Minn.-based manufacturer of controls and switches, announced layoffs for 31 workers at its headquarters plant in Detroit Lakes. SJERhombus produces liquid level controls for water, wastewater, sewage industries, homes and businesses.

Brian Walters, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. has said cost-cutting measures are a function of the global economy until global credit markets loosen.

Credit is difficult to obtain overseas, so while there may be demand for products, there is not financing to place orders, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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