BREWER, Maine — Cianbro Corp. cut a small number of employees from its Eastern Manufacturing Facility last week as the company nears the halfway mark of its contract for modules for a massive oil refinery expansion project in Texas, company officials said.
“We had nine people laid off on that site on Friday, and we’re getting close to the end of the job,” Alan Burton, Cianbro’s vice president of human resources, safety and health, said Tuesday. “The original contract we had is going to be complete in May. After we ship this barge [of modules] out” next week, fewer employees will be needed.
“We are starting to do a little bit of phase down,” he said. “We currently have 500 people on site right now, but we expect that to slowly go down, if we don’t get more work on that site, to around 100” by summertime.
That could all change if a new client hires Cianbro, Burton said.
“We’re talking to 15 potential clients, and any one of those could change that at any point,” he said. “It’s a matter of do we land one. The economy has impacted a lot of the clients.”
With the holidays nearing, the layoffs are hard to make, Burton said.
“It’s a tough time of year,” he said.
Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Cianbro to build 53 refinery modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which is in the middle of a $7 billion expansion that will make it the largest crude oil processing plant in North America.
A barge, docked at the Brewer bulkhead, is being loaded with the fifth shipment of modules, which is scheduled to depart Brewer around Dec. 18, company spokesman Alan Grover said.
A total of 21 of the 53 refinery modules ordered by Motiva already have been delivered, and with the next load, the halfway mark will be reached, he said.
Other Cianbro locations also have seen layoffs, Burton said.
“Down in the mid-Atlantic area we’ve had layoffs there, and in southern New England we’ve had layoffs there,” he said. “We’ve had other areas of the company that have seen the result of the downturning economy.”
While company officials work to get new contracts to keep employees working at the Eastern Manufacturing Facility, a lot of work remains for the 500 or so workers still there, Burton said, and there is hope for future work.
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said. “We still have work.”