Grundy Center Battles Through Recent Manufacturing Layoffs

By Chris Earl, Reporter

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa - It's a rural county but definitely not isolated. An area with a smaller population but still with a vibrant and active downtown in the county's largest city.

"We're real proud of Grundy Center and we think that we're pretty upscale and we don't like the negative things," said Rex Van Wert, a resident for decades and now in his second stint as the city's mayor.

Friday's announced layoffs at the R.S. Bacon Veneer Company, on the western edge of Grundy Center, will mean 49 positions cut in this town of 2,700. Bacon Veneer specializes in wood veneer manufacturing. Van Wert, himself an operator of a small business in town, confirmed Bacon Veneer eliminated a production line because sales were down.

"Anytime you lose around 50 jobs and take that income out of the town and take those jobs out of town, it does have a major impact from the business community and the school district," Van Wert said.

On Wednesday afternoon, in the heart of the lunch hour, the talk of the Bacon Veneer job cuts filled the quiet chatter at the lunch counter at Manly's Drug in downtown Grundy Center. People we spoke with said the city does rely heavily on manufacturing positions.

On the city's north edge, Richelieu Foods is one of Grundy Center's largest employers, according to Van Wert. Now the challenge comes in trying to help bring a sense of economic calm.

"We had Norwesco and that was bitten by the GM slowdown," said Van Wert. "Richelieu had a recent downturn and they've laid off a shift. Hopefully, it's not a growing trend but it is not something we are unfamiliar with here."

John Jensen, a reporter with the Grundy Register, reported on the layoffs for this week's newspaper. He said Grundy Center has been hit with the manufacturing layoffs and also the summer drought for the area's farmers.

Grundy Center is also not without the benefit of being close to larger cities and more opportunities. Both Marshalltown and the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area are within 30 miles.

Yet, for the workers who are displaced from last week's layoffs, an information meeting is planning for Monday, October 8, from 10am to noon in neighboring Holland:

- Hawkeye Community College Western Outreach Center, 17040 Market Avenue, Holland.

- Information available on unemployment insurance, job searching/interviewing, maintaining credit and job retraining.
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