The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 22, 2013

Quapaw company cuts work force by one-fourth

From staff reports

QUAPAW, Okla. — Umicore announced the elimination of nearly a quarter of its Quapaw work force today.

Timothy Douglas, a human resources manager for Umicore, said in a statement that 34 of the 137 people employed in Quapaw were laid off.

According to Douglas, the company, based in Brussels, Belgium, was seeking to reduce its production of germanium semiconductor wafers as demand for that product decreased. The wafers are components of high-efficiency solar cells and have been used in satellites and NASA projects, as well as in light-emitting diodes for vehicles, streetlights and traffic lights.

“This is in response to very challenging conditions in the market for terrestrial photovoltaics,” Douglas said in the statement. “We had been operating a reduced shift pattern for some months, but this proved inadequate in the face of such reduced levels of demand. ... While we recognize the impact that this will have on the people concerned, the move is necessary to safeguard the other ongoing activities at the site. We will continue to focus on providing high-quality products for our customers in the U.S. aerospace sector and other industries.”

Douglas was not immediately available by telephone this afternoon for further comment.

The germanium-wafer production plant opened in October 2010, although Umicore had a presence in Quapaw since 2003, when it acquired its electro-optic materials plant from EaglePicher Industries.

The Quapaw location was chosen for the company’s U.S. expansion over cities such as Phoenix, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., because of residents’ experience working with the former EaglePicher operation.