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Looking For Opportunities Amid 238 Layoffs At Waterloo Company

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WATERLOO - With hundreds of layoffs announced on Tuesday with Ocwen Financial Corp., 238 workers will be losing their jobs at the Waterloo facility.

Company spokesperson Rick Gillespie said, in a release on Tuesday, some of the 238 workers will have their positions for up to next summer. Others will be released before then.

Yet as these people look to provide for their families, the environment to find a new path and a new career without having to move could be in place.

"It's always rotten to have to go through something like this but the opportunity for re-employment is very good in the Cedar Valley right now," said Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance.

Unemployment throughout the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metro area is relatively low. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an unemployment rate of 4.5% for August 2013, the most recent monthly measuring point. That's lower than the state average and well below the national number.

Bureau of Labor Statistics page for Waterloo-Cedar Falls:

"The chances of them finding employment again are pretty good," admits Dr. Ken McCormick, a longtime economics professor at the University of Northern Iowa. "It's not like a situation where the unemployment rate is 12%, where it would be very hard. That is not to say it will be easy. I wouldn't be as pessimistic as I would if the unemployment rate were much higher."

Both Dust and Noel Anderson, the director of the city's community planning and development, point to Cedar Falls-based CBE Group as a potential place for the former Ocwen workers to land.

The CBE Group services debt collections and is located in a sizable office on Technology Parkway on the south side of Cedar Falls.

"Two weeks ago, we had the announcement by The CBE Group they were adding up to 400 jobs over the next several months," said Dust.

Tuesday's layoffs came more than a year after Ocwen purchased the assets of GMAC Mortgage in 2012. Other company-wide layoffs were announced in Pennsylvania and Texas.

Over the last two years, the region has withstood large-scale layoffs that drew plenty of publicity.

May 2012: BPI in Waterloo closed, with 200 jobs cut.
August 2012: Peregrine Financial Group shut down, losing around 200 jobs cut.
November 2012: With the nationwide closure of Hostess, approximately 85 jobs were lost.

"It makes the news when people get laid off," said McCormick. "When people get re-hired someplace else, it doesn't make the news and so people tend to only see layoffs constantly. They are, usually, in smaller numbers but there are also constant hires."

Dust said programs for re-training at Hawkeye Community College and the University of Northern Iowa will be in place for displaced workers, as has been the case with previous layoffs in Black Hawk County.

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