When Rolls-Royce sold its plant in Mount Vernon to Siemens Energy Inc., a power generator producer, for $1.3 billion in 2014, Siemens executives told city mayor Richard K. Mavis that they would reduce the number of jobs at the plant from 800 to 325. Two weeks ago, Siemens executives told the mayor that the plant would be shut down by Sept. 30 of this year, eliminating the remaining jobs in the process.
“That was a real shock,” Mavis said. “As of that day, there were 400 people working.”
Mavis said that the lost jobs at Siemens will have an impact on the city’s budget in the coming years. Mavis said that 137 of the laid-off Siemens workers live in Mount Vernon, while the other employees live elsewhere in Knox County. Mavis said that he predicts the lost jobs will cost the city about $1 million in the next two years. This loss will impact the operating budgets of many city departments. Mount Vernon has struggled with a low operating budget over the past few years, according to Mavis, and the Siemens plant closure will only exacerbate this issue.
Clarissa Haller, head of corporate communications for Siemens, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just last year, the State of Ohio granted Siemens $700,000 dollars to redevelop an old office building separate from the plant for employees, according to Mavis. Although though Siemens was working on the redevelopment through the year, they had not used any of the grant money, according to Mavis. If they had, they would have to pay back whatever they used to the State of Ohio.
The Mount Vernon finance committee is holding a meeting on the budget during the second week of March that will be open to the public, according to Mavis. He said that they formulated a budget based on the jobs they thought would be in the city, so he said they will need to make some “serious cuts.”
He said Siemens is considering relocating some employees to their plant in Orlando, Fla. Mavis said he estimates some employees could get jobs at the Ariel Corporation or find employment with companies in Mount Vernon. The rest of the employees may have to move to find work.
“That’s going to put houses up for sale. Most of these jobs were very good,” Mavis said. “It really, what I call, breaks apart a family when they have to leave friends, leave some family members, they have children in school. It is disrupting.”
Mavis said the city is working with a national marketing firm to appeal to potential tenants who may move into the empty space. He said that Siemens will hold onto the lease for the foreseeable future. He hopes a new company will move in and help provide jobs to those who were laid off.
Matt Starr, a member of Mount Vernon’s city council, said that despite the setbacks, the city will find a way to handle the situation.
“We’re going to find a way to roll with it and we’re going to be fine. We’ll bounce back — we always have,” Starr said.