CH2M Hill to close its doors

Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Doug Ferguson, talent recruiter at CH2M Hill, speaks to employees of Kenai's Business Unit during a town hall meeting Thursday August 1, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska. The meeting was held for employees and family of people who will be affected by the sale or closure of the unit, expected within 60 days.

 For a man who just lost his job, Zebadiah Carpenter was remarkably calm as he rocked his one-month-old son.

 

He stood behind a group of more than 30 CH2M Hill employees — several still covered in the dirt and grease associated with the operations and management activities centered around the company’s Kenai Business Unit — and gently bounced his son, Rance Carpenter, occasionally leaning in to chat with his wife Krystina Carpenter.

“At our foreman meeting...it was rolled out to us,” he said.

He shrugged.

Even as plant managers told employees the facility had 60 days to sell or it would be closed, Zebadiah said he was not surprised.

“I knew that we were in the red, I knew that we were struggling,” he said. “It’s construction. You can get laid off at any time so you know you just kind of go with it.”

While Zebadiah said he had never been laid off or let go from a company

“I’ll probably just transfer to the (North) Slope,” he said. “I’m pretty laid back. I worked up on the slope before, so I’ll just go back again.”

Krystina is not as confident.

“I’m not really sure about it yet,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure everything out. We’ve been discussing him going to the slope for a while so that was my first thought.”

Krystina said she was nervous about her husband losing his job but as she spoke, Zebadiah broke in, “I’m not losing my job, I’m just moving.”

During the meeting, several higher managers were on hand to talk to employees about their options.

Carolyn Vanzant, a member of the Alaska Department of Labor’s rapid response team, passed out a stack of “layoff guides” to interested employees and encouraged them to contact her quickly.

“The thing that I think that you want to set as a priority is not to wait until day 59 to come see us, come see us now. We’ll get you in (the system),” she said.

Once in the Department of Labor’s database, people can look into training opportunities, money available for relocation and job openings, she said.

Denis LeBlanc, Director of Operations and Maintenance for CH2M Hill said the company needed to close it’s Kenai Unit because it did not have the volume of work to justify keeping the unit open.

The company has 1300 people in it’s North Slope operations and 65 in Kenai, he said. “This does the same thing as our unit does on the North Slope at a much smaller scale.”

As employees asked questions about on-the-job training, transferring to different units within the company and when they could make the time to find services outside of work hours, LeBlanc said the company would do everything it could to help its employees. “You are the most important person in that equation, we’ll work with you so we have the best outcome for you. Not the best outcome for me, not the best outcome for the company, the best outcome for you,” he said.

LeBlanc said it was regretful that the employees had to suffer through the company’s restructuring process.

“You’re the ones that are being challenged in this transition, it’s not a piece of equipment, it’s not the infrastructure, it’s challenging because you’ve done such a good job,” he said. “ But ‘Boy if I’ve done such a good job why am I here today?’ It’s simple, because we don’t have the volume of business. We’ve sustained pretty significant losses and just like you do at home, you can do it for a little bit but you can’t do it for long.”

 

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com

 

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