Cemex plans to close its Davenport plant and lay off the bulk of its local work force, about 125 employees, for a minimum of six months beginning March 9, company officials announced Thursday.
The temporary closure of the 100-year-old North Coast factory comes in the wake of a severe downturn in the economy, which has translated into a drastic drop in demand for cement across California - especially in the housing industry, Cemex spokeswoman Jennifer Borgen said.
"Demand does not exist right now in California," she said. "This (the closure) is purely the market. If you don’t have demand, you can’t continue to produce cement."
A skeleton crew of Cemex employees, based on seniority and skills, will be kept at the plant to maintain the equipment and ensure the factory is ready to run again when the economy bounces back, Borgen said.
This is the first time the company has called for a temporary halt in operations with layoffs since 1992, Borgen said. That closure lasted three weeks, she said.
The Davenport plant, which was previously owned by RMC Pacific Materials until Cemex purchased it in 2005, has closed for short periods on several occasions due to weak demand, but had avoided letting workers go.
Cemex Vice President Satish Sheth, who also oversees the company’s plant in Victorville, said the company had no choice but pause production when faced with the current economic conditions in California.
"The economic downturn is so severe," he said. "The company is dealing with the same downturn we’re seeing everywhere else. We just have no place to go."