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McAdam, N.B., prepares for loss of major employer

Click to play video 'Layoffs from McAdam’s gypsum plant closure to come next month' Layoffs from McAdam’s gypsum plant closure to come next month
Residents of McAdam, N.B., are coming to grips with word that one of its largest employers, a gypsum plant, is shutting its doors for good in February. – Jul 17, 2020

The tiny village of McAdam, N.B., west of Fredericton, is still coming to grips with word that one of its largest employers is closing its doors.

The CertainTeed gypsum wallboard manufacturing plant, which dates back to the 1980s, will close its doors for good in February, but most of the 59 employees affected will see their jobs end Aug. 28. Up to 10 workers are expected to stay into 2021 until inventory runs out.

McAdam Mayor Ken Stannix said he was stunned by the news. He said his thoughts turned immediately to the workers, some of whom have up to 27 years of service there.

“Not only is it a financial blow, but there is a psychological blow as to their identity,” Stannix said. “Most people identify with where they work and so these folks now have to re-identify as to who they are and what they’re going to be doing with the rest of their lives.”

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READ MORE: It takes a village: Inside the effort to save McAdam, N.B.

Don Doherty grew up in McAdam and now co-owns the local hardware store with his wife. He said the workers are a tight-knit group.

“They were like family,” Doherty said. “They pitch in. They did whatever they needed to do to keep things going. From our business perspective, we really feel for the job losses that are happening. We feel for their families and how it’s impacting them.”

Stannix said a meeting is planned for July 24 with plant workers, the Department of Labour and other stakeholders to discuss the workers’ futures. He said it’s important to give them time to consider their options, which for some may include retirement.

Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder met Friday with Stannix and company officials and offered government support in creating a transition committee to assist workers. He said it’s crucial that the province ensures supports are in place for the workers right away.

Click to play video 'Politicians, community members try to figure out what to do next post-closure of New Brunswick smelter in Belldune' Politicians, community members try to figure out what to do next post-closure of New Brunswick smelter in Belldune
Politicians, community members try to figure out what to do next post-closure of New Brunswick smelter in Belldune – Nov 15, 2019

“Going forward in the next couple of weeks, the conversation then has to transition to, ‘What does the economy of McAdam look like?'” Holder said. “What opportunities could there be for this property where the plant sits today?”

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Stannix said he has already had conversations with other companies about coming to McAdam.

But he said the community has also identified the tourism industry and retirement living as keys to stabilizing the village’s future. He said the population has increased by about 100 to 1,250 in the last three years.

Stannix spearheaded a plan to offer residential lots for sale for $1 for people who want to build and live in the community and said he has sold 16 of them so far. He expects those people to be moving in over the course of the next two years.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Stannix said. “We are adding population. Hopefully, not a lot of these folks will leave the community and we’ll be able to find other jobs for them.”

READ MORE: Sale of $1 housing lots spells success for New Brunswick village

CertainTeed’s parent company issued an email statement to Global News.

“As a company, we continually work to understand customer needs and to meet changing customer demands,” said Dina Silver Pokedoff, branding and communication director for Saint-Gobain North America.

“And that important work informs our decisions to re-evaluate our plant network and make changes to ensure our future success, which will include a continued commitment to service the Atlantic region.

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We recognize the impact the plant closure will have on employees, their families and the McAdam community. We’re committed to working closely with all employees to provide support and many resources such as career counseling and identifying job opportunities at other CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain plants, as well as those external to the Company.”