Hemlock Semiconductor: 400 layoffs now permanent

Hemlock Semiconductor: 400 layoffs now permanent (Image 1)

Hundreds of layoffs thought to be temporary are now permanent at a billion dollar Hemlock Semiconductor facility in Clarksville.

Hemlock Semiconductor
announced Tuesday that workers laid off in January would be “permanently separated from the company.”

The Michigan-based silicon products company blamed a volatile market for the job eliminations at facilities in Michigan and Tennessee.

In an email to Nashville's News 2, spokesman Jarrod Erpelding stated, “In January, Hemlock Semiconductor Group announced its intention to lay off approximately 400 employees in Michigan and Tennessee in response to significant oversupply in the poly silicon industry and the threat of potential tariffs on its products sold into China.”

The layoffs equate to 100 job losses in Michigan and 300 job losses in Tennessee.

The plant in Clarksville sits on nearly 500 acres that was previously farmland.

In 2008, the planned $1.2 billion facility was touted as the “largest ever” investment in the state.

A groundbreaking ceremony in 2009 marked the beginning of the construction phase that was expected to employ 1,200 workers.

The project was slated to be complete in late 2012 with 500 permanent employees.

Today, construction continues, and 300 of those 500 positions have been eliminated.

“It's a disappointment,” said State House Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville). “You know, you hate to see anything like that happen, especially when there was such great promise going into the project.”

Representative Pitts was among the state and local leaders that saw great potential for Hemlock in Tennessee. He admitted the job losses are a setback, but has no regrets.

“They have done everything in their power, and they've really met the criteria that was set for them by the state and the incentives we provided,” he said. “So there's really no buyer's remorse here at all.”

Over the last four years, Hemlock Semiconductor has provided more than construction jobs.

The manufacturer designed, built and funded a $2 million chemical engineering laboratory at Austin Peay State University.

“It's mixed emotions for us,” said Bill Persinger, Executive Director of APSU Public Relations & Marketing. “Because it is obvious that with Hemlock coming here, (it) is the main reason we got this facility.”

The building that houses the lab bears the Hemlock name, but the lab helped make APSU a household name for its chemical engineering technology degree program.

“Our program is a general chemical engineering program. These students walk out of here knowing just a wide range of chemical processes that apply to many fields,” Persinger said.

Since 2008, the school has been successful in placing students in jobs across the country, including Hemlock Semiconductor.

As for the company that made it possible, Representative Pitts has not given up hope.

“I am confident, without a shadow of a doubt, that the company will open at some point in the future,” Pitts said. “Anybody who has been out to the site has seen the investment they have made. It's just not something you walk away from easily.”

The Hemlock Semiconductor plant in Clarksville was designed to make high-purity silicon materials for use solar cells and solar panels. The facility was never fully operational.

The 200 employees that remain employed will maintain the facility for future production.

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