By Ralph Dickerson
When Aleris announced plans last Wednesday to close its Lewisport facility for two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it sent shock waves throughout the Hancock County community. Many residents began to wonder if the coronavirus would result in other area factories and businesses being shuttered. A quick survey of most of the county’s largest employers reveals plans to remain open.
Several of the organizations contacted revealed the state considers their business as an essential one, or they service an essential business, therefore need to remain in operation. One such local business considered essential is Southwire Rod and Cable.
“Our work at Southwire is critical in the fight against COVID-19,” Southwire Communications and Employee Engagement Director Ashley K. Bush said in a statement. “We are an important piece of the supply chain for many essential businesses and markets.”
In addition, Bush said the company enacted policies corporate wide to deal with the coronavirus. The company appointed a team to implement policies and manage the company’s response to the virus.
“Earlier this month we enacted precautionary measures including travel approvals for all business-related travel, limiting on-site visits from external parties, ensuring CDC compliance with vendors and contractors and asking employees to not attend large trade shows, conferences or similar large events,” Bush wrote. “We have also moved into remote work environments where applicable.”
Other businesses responded in a similar manner. First Class Services operates all over mainland United States, providing needed hauling services. Spokesperson Joel High addressed First Class’ situation.
“We are under federal mandate to provide raw materials to the food and medical industries,” High said.
Another local business considered essential is Crescent Paper Tube in Lewisport. Plant manager Tim Heavrin said the facility supplies products to the food and medical industries, and must stay open.
“We have no plans to reduce production at this time,” Heavrin said. “We have implemented several new procedures to help keep our employees safe.”
Though many businesses remain open with no changes, others remain open, but have felt some impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. One such business is BFD Enterprises in Lewisport.
“BFD has some customers that are considered essential businesses, as are we,” Operations Manager Shelby Basham said. “However, we have had some shipments canceled due to the virus, and have had to be diverted, which causes a ripple effect for the next scheduled shipment sometimes, as well as have an economic impact.
“Our employees are working with shippers and receivers at each facility they go to in whatever ways necessary to keep all of them as safe as possible.”
Though not considered an essential business, Century Aluminum announced plans to keep all of its plants, not just Hawesville, open and running during this pandemic. Michael Bless, President and Chief Financial Officer, addressed the virus situation in a press release dated March 24.
“First and foremost, we have instituted temporary policies and practices at all of our facilities aimed at keeping our employees and visitors healthy and safe,” Bless said in the release. “We have tailored best practices to address the unique requirements of a primary aluminum operations.”
Company spokesperson Peter Trpkovski said an aluminum smelter cannot just be turned off and idled. It is very expensive to both shut down and then to restart. They need to be kept operating on a continuous basis.
Domtar spokesperson Tammy Waters said the company’s operations continue as normal. She said the company did enact measures to combat the virus.
“Domtar continues to monitor developments for the COVID-19 pandemic,” Waters said in a statement. “We are following all World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control government guidelines, and we are taking precautionary steps to do what we can to prevent further spread of the virus.
“We have a comprehensive Pandemic Response policy that includes increased hygiene and disinfection procedures in our facilities, as well as visitor restrictions and screenings. We have
By Ralph Dickerson