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Layoffs begin at ammo plant

RIVERBANK — The long-planned closure of a 66-year-old Army ammunition plant has begun, with pink slips going out to 30 of its employees.

The 173-acre government-owned site at Claus and Claribel roads, which forges metal parts for military defense contracts, had 78 employees before layoffs started.

In February NI Industries (formerly Norris Industries) filed its first Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, notice stating its intent to lay off eight employees. Late last month it filed another WARN notice for 22 more employees.

The layoffs are part of the Pentagon's 2005 announced plant closing under the Army's Base Realignment and Closure program.

Diana Thomas, the NI Industries human resources manager, said the first two waves of layoffs are part of the plant's closure by March 2010.

"As we progress through our operations, there will be more layoffs," she said. "These are the first layoffs from that (2005) law being passed. Production is ramping down."

The first layoffs will finish this month with the second wave starting in May. She said more WARN notices will be forthcoming.

Tim Ogden, Riverbank's economic development and housing director, said the plant will complete its military cartridge case contract by June 30, when the majority of the manufacturing employees are expected to be let go.

Once production is finished, the plant will begin relocating its equipment to its Rock Island, Ill., site.

The company will have nine months to wrap up the transfer and clean the site. NI Industries manages the property, now called the Riverbank Industrial Complex, and 11 other businesses rent space there.

Ogden said members of the city staff and Stanislaus County Economic Development and Workforce Alliance met with the plant's workers to discuss available future employment and training programs.

He said several of the company's almost 80 employees have worked there for two decades or more, with three 40-year veterans among their ranks.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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