Quincy Compressor's president says incentives couldn't keep operations here

A Quincy Compressor worker heads to his vehicle after completing his shift in this May 28 file phot outside the Quincy plant on Wismann Lane. (H-W File Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Jul. 1, 2014 11:50 am Updated: Jul. 15, 2014 12:15 pm
John Thompson, president of Quincy Compressor LLC

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

A Quincy Compressor employee heard the news he had feared for the past month when company officials confirmed Tuesday that they will close the Quincy factory next year and eliminate 152 jobs.

"Layoffs begin Sept. 1," he said.

The employee, who asked not to be identified, has worked for several years at the factory at 3501 Wismann Lane and is not looking forward to seeking another job. He and other workers who spoke about Quincy Compressor feared they would lose their jobs immediately if they were identified.

Even though one worker was not interested in relocating to Bay Minette, Ala., the Quincy man was concerned there was no mention of allowing factory workers to transfer there.

John Thompson, president of Quincy Compressor LLC, and other management officials were at the Quincy factory early Tuesday to tell employees they plan to close the plant July 1, 2015.

"This difficult decision comes after careful consideration and extensive talks with both the union and community leaders," Thompson said in a news release. "Unfortunately, the combined union and civic incentives fell short of the annual savings required to retain operations in Quincy."

Employees with knowledge of the incentives doubt there was any chance of changing the corporate decision that first was announced May 28.

"We kept asking how much savings they needed to keep it open. They never gave us a number," said a member of the steering committee from the union attempting to preserve jobs at the Quincy factory.

Members of the Machinists union agreed to a wage freeze for three years. They also offered concessions on insurance coverage and pledged not to fight the company if it sought to outsource some types of work.

"They were offered a $5 million interest-free loan from the state. They were told the city would abate some property taxes. I thought the state and city bent over backwards to try to keep them here," the union member said.

The incentive package described by the factory worker was outlined June 10 when local officials met with Quincy Compressor's corporate leaders.

Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore, Marcel Wagner, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, and Jacqui Bevelheimer with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity met with six Quincy Compressor officers for about 45 minutes at the Quincy plant. They suggested that Quincy Compressor consolidate its manufacturing at the Wismann Lane site instead of in Alabama.

"We wanted them to compare apples to apples" considering the strengths of a Quincy operation if a single factory was preferred, Moore said.

Even with those incentives, Moore said the company said it was less expensive to operate a single factory in Alabama. He noted that worker compensation costs are much higher in Illinois, and company officials said the Quincy building is much bigger than needed.

"In this situation, there were circumstances beyond our control, and our community partners did everything they could do," Moore said Tuesday.

A union worker said the pay difference between Illinois and Alabama was not as large as previously reported. Quincy wages are in the $17 to $18 per hour range. Wages in Bay Minette are in the $15 to $16 per hour range.

Some Quincy Compressor employees had expected the company downsizing when Atlas Copco Group bought the company from EnPro in 2010.

"Atlas has done this at other places," one worker said. "I don't think there was anything we could have done from day one to keep (the Quincy factory) open."

The loss of 152 jobs will be felt keenly in the community, and it will be a major life change for the workers themselves.

"The economy right now is terrible," said an assembly worker who asked not to be identified.

"I would say (Quincy Compressor) has been one of the top two or three places to work in Quincy. It's clean. The heavy work is not too hard, and the management has been good to work with."