Adairsville manufacturer first major company in Bartow to announce mass layoffs in wake of COVID-19 crisis
The Georgia Department of Labor announced midweek that Vista Metals Corp. Specialty Alloys, LLC, intends to lay off 120 employees at its facilities in Adairsville.
The permanent layoffs were confirmed by both Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor and Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development Executive Director Melinda Lemmon.
“There are several companies under the umbrella of Vista Metals that operate in Adairsville, so I really don’t know too many other details about which divisions are involved,” Lemmon told The Daily Tribune News. “I do know that it’s a family-owned company … I can only imagine how difficult it was for them to come to this conclusion.”
Although Lemmon said she didn’t know the precise reasons for the Fontana, California-headquartered manufacturer's decision, she said the economic aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic are certainly a factor.
Taylor said he received news about the layoffs from Vista Metals Corp. President Andrew Primack several days ago.
“I think it’s just unfortunate that they’re having to lay off so many people, but I do understand,” Taylor said, “because one of their main customers, actually, is tied to the airline industry … it’s just trickling down through these suppliers, that they are affected by it in a negative way because of what’s going on with the economy.”
“It’s really bonding capacity that Vista can use,” Lemmon said. “So it’s really their investment and their financial backers that are involved in the capital investment. What a bonds-for-title transaction does is it might defer a portion of their property taxes — so it’s deferred revenue for the community.”
Lemmon said it may be too early to assess how the layoffs may impact the “clawback provisions” — which requires the employer to meet certain job creation figures to receive full tax abatements — included in those bond agreements.
“Certainly with Vista, there’s a longer-term performance and accountability period and I feel confident that long term, that Vista is going to hit the mark,” she said. “They have alway overdelivered on the job estimates and the capital investment that they had, so that accountability component of this really hasn’t entered my mind.”
Taylor said he had similar thoughts on the matter.
“They have exceeded their employees from what they originally promised, so they still may be above the agreement as far as the abatements go that they originally got,” he said.
“I’m optimistic that’s not the case,” she said. “I think there are a lot of individual circumstances involved here … I know each company is having their own challenges with this pandemic, and each has been very creative and innovative in how to respond to it.”
Vista Metals began operations in Adairsville in 2009. Taylor called the company one of Bartow’s greatest corporate partners.
“They’re so good to their employees,” he said. “They’ve got good wages and good benefits and we really hate to see this happen, but I do understand why it’s happening.”
The mass layoffs, Lemmon said, are certainly a major blow to Bartow’s manufacturing base — which, until now, has been able to withstand the economic repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’m hopeful that over the multiple years that are involved in our partnership with Vista that they’ll be able to bounce back from this,” she said. “We certainly want to continue to be good long-term partners with the company and help them through whatever this issue is.”
For the laid off employees, Lemmon said she’s hopeful a litany of professional programs will “support these individuals” and get them reengaged with employment opportunities.
“Hopefully, those same employees will find employment quickly,” Taylor said. “I know a lot of other industries are still looking for employees.”
Taylor said he’s received no indication from Vista Metals when the company expects to begin rehiring or recalling workers.
“They are hopeful that with an improving economy, they can add to their workforce down the road,” he said. “They didn’t speculate how long it would be or what would be coming, they didn’t want to promise something they can’t deliver on.”
So far, Taylor said Vista Metals is the first and only major employer in Bartow to contact his office about permanent layoffs.
Whether more companies in the county follow suit remains to be seen.
“There may be others down the road as we move further into COVID-19, but I tend to be a little more optimistic that employers are drawing people back into the workforce now instead of laying off,” he said. “I think we’ll start going the other way now as far as employment goes.”