Cody drywall factory to close

Dozens of jobs to be lost

Posted 1/22/20

CertainTeed Gypsum is permanently closing its drywall manufacturing facility in Cody, putting several dozen employees out of work and dealing a bitter blow to the area’s economy.

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Cody drywall factory to close

Dozens of jobs to be lost


CertainTeed Gypsum is permanently closing its drywall manufacturing facility in Cody, putting several dozen employees out of work and dealing a bitter blow to the area’s economy.

The drywall manufacturer informed employees last week that it will halt operations at its Cody plant on April 3, “at which time layoffs will begin.” Roughly 49 hourly and salaried CertainTeed employees will be impacted, though a small group will stay on through December to decommission the plant, the company said. Contractors that worked for CertainTeed and its gypsum mining operations south of the Cody landfill also stand to be impacted — along with the BNSF Railway, which the company used for shipping some of its products.

CertainTeed officials have said they hope to find a buyer for their gypsum crushing operations — raising the possibility that some of the jobs could be preserved — but those details have yet to be determined.

“Our decision to close the Cody Plant facility was not made lightly but became necessary due to the small local volume around the plant and a consistent decline over the past few years in overall volumes resulting in plant underutilization,” CertainTeed Regional Manufacturing Manager Kevin Murray wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to employees, calling the outcome “most unfortunate” and “extremely difficult.”

“… This is no reflection on you or the performance of the Cody Plant facility,” Murray added. “You have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and to continuous improvement as reflected in the quality of the product produced and service to the customer.”

Cody Mayor Matt Hall, who got a heads up from the company about the pending closure, called the news “pretty disheartening.”

Beyond the impact to the area’s economy, “I’m more concerned, or just as much, about the families [of the workers],” he said Tuesday. “I mean, those are some good jobs.”

Hall said he wants to help however he can and said there have been discussions about getting assistance from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services; Murray said in his letter that CertainTeed wants to provide employees “with as much help and information as possible during this difficult time.”

Mayor Hall noted that CertainTeed’s decision comes on the heels of the closure of Cody Laboratories last year, in which some 85 pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs were lost.

“It’s hard to get and apparently it’s hard to maintain those kinds of businesses in our area,” Hall said of large corporations offering scores of jobs.

The gypsum plant had been a fixture in Cody for decades. It was long operated by Celotex Corporation, but that company went bankrupt in 1997 amid litigation over asbestos-related products. After a stint under the ownership of a British corporation, CertainTeed’s parent company, Paris-based Saint-Gobain, acquired the wallboard-maker in 2005. Saint-Gobain describes itself as “one of the world’s largest and oldest building products companies.”

CertainTeed had expanded its operations in recent years, including adding an 18,000-square-foot warehouse in 2014; at the time, a company spokeswoman told the Cody Enterprise that “the volume is improving.”

However, CertainTeed told Mayor Hall last week that the plant was not getting the amount of work it needed to be profitable. Following the 2008 recession, “they just hadn’t had their volume back up to where they could be sustainable,” Hall said.

The mayor added that, according to CertainTeed, the work that was being done in Cody will now be performed at other company plants.

“... If they can’t make the kind of margins they want or if they’re cutting it too close, this is what corporate America kind of does sometimes,” Hall said.

CertainTeed and its affiliates claim more than 6,300 employees and 60 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Canada; they’re among more than 180,000 people that work for Saint-Gobain across 68 countries.

With CertainTeed set to no longer use Cody’s rail spur, Hall is concerned about its future as well.

“They were pretty much, I think, the reason why BNSF was really coming all the way to this end of the line” in Cody, he said; James Klessens, CEO of the economic development group Forward Cody, has been working on ways to make more use of the spur.

“That’s another thing that we’re just going to have to try and crack,” Hall said.

The mayor said CertainTeed’s representative relayed that transportation costs had been high, paying about $6,000 per freight car to get wallboard from Cody to Seattle.

Going forward, Hall said he wants to work on ways to get local entrepreneurs to generate businesses where transportation isn’t as much an issue. For instance, he sees potential in the digital and healthcare industries.

“Really, just the idea that we’re probably going to have to try and look for more industries that aren’t quite that manufacturing-focused really in our area,” Hall said.

Of course, there is still some hope for Cody manufacturing jobs: Almost directly across the street from the CertainTeed plant, in the warehouse that once housed Cody Labs, Kanye West is preparing to run a sample/prototype lab for Yeezy, his shoe and apparel business.