THOMASTON, Maine — Due to the tough construction market, Dragon Products’ cement plant will institute a temporary worker layoff and four- to six-week production shutdown starting on May 25.
“The business is pretty bleak in construction,” said plant manager Ray DeGrass. “We forecasted that 2009 would be worse than 2008, but it was worse than what we forecasted.”
These temporary layoffs, which DeGrass said will affect an undetermined number of the plant’s 110 employees, come on the heels of a permanent work force layoff of 20 percent in January.
There is no more talk of more permanent layoffs, DeGrass said.
“We have an effective work force right now. We can produce with the numbers we have,” he said, adding that those affected by the layoffs will continue to receive benefits. “We need them to come back. We have an invested, skilled work force.”
The plant will revisit its staffing levels “week to week,” matching employees with necessary maintenance and operations, DeGrass said.
Dragon has made cement at its Thomaston facility since 1928. In 2004, under its current ownership by Cementos Portland and Cementos Lemona of Spain, the plant underwent a $50 million modernization to expand production and convert to a more energy-efficient dry process, according to the company’s Web site. Cement from Dragon is shipped by rail and barge throughout the region, but right now that’s not such good news.
“All of New England is very hard-hit — Maine more so than our Boston-area market,” DeGrass said. He said the changing exchange rate with the Canadian dollar has meant that the company is no longer competitive in Canada. Altogether, the cement plant’s business is more than 30 percent behind budget. DeGrass said it’s not clear if demand for cement will increase this summer.
“We can only hope,” he said.