Oklahoma's Industrial Employment Suffers Sharp Decline

Tuesday, September 22nd 2009, 10:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

ROGERS COUNTY, OK -- A national publication says industrial employment in Oklahoma has fallen by 4.5 percent over the past year. That is the sharpest decline since the statistics began being tracked.

Manufacturers' News says in a single year, Oklahoma has officially lost more than 9,600 industrial jobs and 74 manufacturers.

Raymond Reed and Jerome Willm used to be co-workers and neighbors. Now they are merely the latter.

Both were let go from Air X-Changers, a company that makes air-cooled heat exchangers for the natural gas industry.

Reed was laid off in May, Willm in August.

"Honestly, it caught me off guard, it did. I'm just trying to make the best of it," said Raymond Reed, a former Air X-Changers employee.

"Knew it was coming, but yet a shocker when they actually did it," said Jerome Willm, a former Air X-Changers employee.

The two are not alone. Oklahoma experienced its sharpest-ever decline in industrial jobs this past year.

The tough times affected some top Tulsa companies.

Nordam, which makes components for the airline industry, laid off 20 percent of its workforce.

In January, Penloyd, a store display manufacturer and a business that called Tulsa home for 81 years, shut down and let 187 workers go.

Most recently, Mercury Marine did an about face in Stillwater. Shortly after announcing it would bring hundreds of jobs to Oklahoma, the company instead decided to close its plant here. 380 people will lose their jobs.

As they continue to look for work, Reed and Willm are finding ways to make ends meet.

Raymond is working to complete his GED, and Jerome has picked up a job as a part-time pizza delivery man.

Both are betting this manufacturing trend won't continue, but they remain worried.

"Scary. Got rent, got gas, just trying to make it," said Jerome Willm.

Reed never thought he would be in this situation for this long.

"No I didn't. I didn't think I would," said Raymond Reed.

Manufacturers' News says the Oklahoma furniture and fixtures industry fared the worst this past year. Jobs in that industry were down 28 percent.