Hemlock Laying Off Workers, Production Pushed Back - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Hemlock Laying Off Workers, Production Pushed Back

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Hemlock Semiconductor is laying off three-fourths of its employees in Clarksville shortly before production was to begin.

In a release, the company said the layoffs of 277 of its 400 employees at the Clarksville plant and 100 at a plant in Michigan are due to significant oversupply in the polysilicon industry and the threat of potential tariffs on its products sold into China.

The layoffs will take place over a two week period beginning March 18. They said if market conditions persist, layoffs will likely be permanent.

The $1.2 billion plant near the Kentucky border was scheduled to begin production of polycrystalline silicon in late 2012, but was later pushed back to 2013. The compound is used in solar energy panels. 

Hemlock President Andrew Tometich said the plant will be utilized and the company looks forward to production. Asked if the layoffs mean the plant might not open this year, he conceded that is possible.

"This is a difficult but necessary decision to enable Hemlock Semiconductor to navigate the volatility in the polysilicon and solar industries," said Andrew Tometich, president of Hemlock Semiconductor. "The unresolved trade disputes among the U.S., China and Europe are a major factor in Hemlock Semiconductor's actions as the threat of tariffs on U.S. polysilicon imported into China has significantly decreased orders from China, which is home to one of the largest markets for our products."

James chavez, President & CEO of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council issued a statement in response to the news that said, in part: "With this unanticipated news, our economic development team is already working with our City and County Mayors to ensure that we continue to create career opportunities for the citizens in this region.

"It's important to note that there have been several recent announcements that will create new hire opportunities within our region. In Clarksville-Montgomery County those include Bridgestone Metalpha USA, Akebono, Florim USA and Josten's expansions. All of which project net new job growth. In addition, Agero has begun its operations and will continue increasing their employment numbers to a projected 500 employees by December 2013."

Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers was given the news Monday by a company representative.

"We understand with the opening, it's not anything to do with our local economy.  It has nothing to do with Clarksville-Montgomery County," said Bowers.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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