LAKE COUNTRY — Packing up 40 years of business isn’t easy, but for the 32 employees of Ashland’s manufacturing and chemical plant, saying that final farewell is even harder.
“I absolutely loved this job and I’m really sorry that it’s ending,” says 12 year employee MaryAnn Kuiack.
“I’ve been here over half my life. It’s kind of a tough thing,” says 27 year reactor operator Russ Topping, “these are my family. I’ve been here for a lot of years.”
Friday was the last day of operation for the Lake Country plant, which opened up shop back in the early 1970’s.
Ashland announced back in March that the company would be closing its doors at the end of June.
“It had lots of growth in the hay day 30 years ago,” says plant manager Kelly Brown, “starting as a small niche player to the largest manufacturer in Western Canada of these products.”
But as with most business across the country, the recession hit Ashland hard, forcing the plant to lay off more than 35 per cent of staff.
Albeit struggling, the plant managed to push through.
“Almost a year ago, July 6th, the railway shut down,” says Brown. This latest hurdle proved to be too much for the company which ships its product by rail.
Ashland attempted to move its material by truck, but the expense was too high.
“We were making $30 – $40 million a year, saddled with a new cost of $2.5 million, which essentially wiped out any profits,” says Brown.
Since there’s nothing of its kind in the Okanagan, many employees are still searching for work.
Nine workers opted for early retirement, some are leaving the valley all together and others are making a career change.
despite being out of work, there’s little if any animosity towards the company.
“It’s the way it is,” says Kuiack.