With the recent announcement of Fargo Assembly’s impending closure and the loss of more than 180 jobs in David City, local officials are now in the process of trying to find a silver lining amidst a bad situation.
“We are disappointed to learn about Fargo Assembly announcing the closure of their plant in November, affecting 186 employees,” said Kelcie Keeling, executive director of the Butler County Chamber of commerce and Butler County Development, through a released statement to The Banner-Press. “It is the intent of the Butler County Chamber of Commerce to work with the state and local entities to retain the talent here in Butler County."
As a result, Keeling said the chamber officials are talking with those from at least one other town who have dealt with similar situations on how to move forward.
“Butler County has seen recent growth with Timpte’s $15 million expansion to move their headquarters to David City, and Aria Energy’s renewable energy launch, as a new project, first in our state of Nebraska," Keeling said. "The Chamber has been in contact with the Auburn Development Council, to learn from their experience with the Ariens facility closing last year, with the hopes of successfully marketing and selling the building, generating a favorable outcome for the Butler County communities and workforce. We are optimistic we will be able to do the same here in David City.”
Fargo Assembly, which makes electrical wiring assemblies, said in a letter to the Nebraska Department of Labor that it will be closing its doors for good on Nov. 29, as reported by the Journal Star, a sister paper of The Banner-Press.
According to the letter to the Labor Department, employees were informed of the plant closing on July 15 and 16. The letter states that termination dates will vary but that all employees will receive at least 60 days notice before being laid off.
David City City Councilman Skip Trowbridge told The Banner-Press on Tuesday that he learned of the closure not long ago and was disappointed in Fargo Assembly's decision, noting he has been unimpressed with the company's current owners due to their lack of communication with David City. Fargo was bought in 2017 by Electrical Components International, a St. Louis-area company. Since that purchase, ECI has shut down a number of Fargo Assembly plants. Fargo Assembly has had a facility in David City since 1981.
“Apparently Fargo Assembly has a different mindset on doing business,” Trowbridge said. “They never really embraced the David City community as part of their family of businesses. It has just not been a good relationship. They just never really warmed up to our community."
David City Mayor Alan Zavodny called the closing announcement "a shock and disappointment."
"This is a setback for the David City community, but we will rebound," he said in an emailed statement to the Star.
Three smaller Fargo Assembly plants in North Dakota closed in the summer of 2018, and the company shut down a plant in Atchison, Kansas, in June.
Media reports have also indicated that ECI has been opening new plants in Mexico and has plans for more.
Zavodny said in the same emailed statement that there has been a rumor going around in the community that jobs are being shifted to Mexico.
"I hope that the company is not planning to ship these jobs to Mexico as has been widely speculated here," he said.
Keeling said during an interview with The Banner-Press that local officials are in talks with representatives from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, bouncing around ideas regarding how to attract another reputable company into David City that would, in theory, be able to pick up a hefty portion of the soon-to-be laid-off workforce.
“The No. 1 focus is to find another company, another business that is looking for a solid workforce because that is what they have out there (at Fargo), a great group of employees,” Keeling said. “And it is going to be a hit to our community, so that is why we have to actively work on this.”
Trowbridge said he's determined to keep the 180-plus people who are expected to lose their jobs employed, noting he's exploring prospects for doing so. All of the logistics of that have yet-to-be-determined, he said, so he declined to divulge further information.
Keeling and others at the local and state level are jump-starting the process of figuring out a marketing plan for the site, 194 S 11th St.; one that highlights for interested companies all truck routes in and out, its proximity to places like Omaha and Lincoln, among other key hitting points. The goal, she said, is to move swiftly.
“The sooner the better,” Keeling said of tracking down a potential buyer. “That is why we are laying out the groundwork now.”
Laying out that groundwork will hopefully open channels of communication between Nebraska officials and a company looking to benefit from dozens of able workers.
“The No. 1 problem we see in America is finding a quality workforce,” Keeling said. “So that fact that we have that in David City could potentially be a goldmine for a prospective business.”
Managing Editor Matt Lindberg contributed to this story.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at email@example.com.