The Dow Chemical Co. announced it will eliminate about 2,400 jobs and close roughly 20 manufacturing facilities, including its gum base plant in South Charleston.
The moves are part of a restructuring plan aimed at coping with slowing economic growth in Europe and elsewhere.
Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper said, "It's my understanding they're ready to send out a WARN (federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notice on about 13 employees."
The gum base plant produces the material that makes chewing gum chewy. Dow reportedly tried to sell the plant a few years ago and entertained a delegation of Brazilians who inspected the facility. But a sale obviously didn't materialize.
"You ask why this has happened and we don't really know," Carper said. "If you look on the Internet you can see they've opened some new plants and are closing others. One of the curses of the modern age is an efficient transportation system that allows the easy transport of goods. It's a global and national decision on their part.
"I'm certainly not one to say 13 jobs are not significant," Carper said. "It certainly is significant for 13 families."
Dow spokeswoman Trish Thompson issued a statement confirming the decision to close the gum plant. But the statement did not say how many employees will be affected or exactly when the closure will occur.
"Specific impacts are still being finalized," it said.
"The decision to shut down this asset was a portfolio-based decision and is aligned to a series of moves the company is taking to strengthen our long-term competitiveness, focus our resources in areas that will drive growth and deliver the most profitable returns on our investments," the statement said. "The gum base employees have done an excellent job and have demonstrated outstanding performance."
Dow said gum base is one of nine operating units at the South Charleston site.
"Operations at the other plants at the site will continue as normal," the company said. "West Virginia Operations will work with the regulating agencies to cease operations and shut down the operating unit in a manner consistent with applicable environmental, health and safety laws."
Dow said Tuesday that the 2,400 total job cuts amount to 5 percent of the company's workforce worldwide.
Dow expects the strategy will result in roughly $500 million in annual cost savings by the end of 2014.
The company also plans to slash capital spending and investments. It expects that will save an additional $500 million.