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CH2M Hill to close its doors

Posted: August 1, 2013 - 9:15pm  |  Updated: August 2, 2013 - 8:09am
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.
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 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


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Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 08/01/13 - 10:16 pm
Ms Vanzant

Carolyn is a great person to work with. Allow her the time to help you and she and the rest of the staff at the job center will do what they can. I know this first hand! I highly recommend the affected employees follow her advice and visit her ASAP. There are many programs out there that may help you ... but first ... you MUST help yourself and you do that by visiting Carolyn and the folks at the Job Center.

spwright 08/02/13 - 12:40 am

8/2/13 Funds were deducted from each & every Pay Check for Times like this. Your Unemployment Benefits are EARNED BENEFITS & belong to YOU & YOUR FAMILY.
Don't hesitate to Visit the Job Center in Kenai & get the process started asap. SPW

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 08/02/13 - 02:09 am
re: unemployment

Although unemployment benefit distribution is a funtion of the Alaska Department of Labor (ADL), that is not their sole purpose. The people at the ADL are judged on their ability to place a willing person in suitable and sustainable employment.
I found my self in the precarious position of being unemployed after 17 steady years of work with one company. Thanks to the people at the ADL, I found retraining funds that were available through state and federal programs that helped many of my co-workers find new, and in some cases, more desirable career paths. In my instance, they helped me build a resume' and make contacts with companies within my previous employers field. I attribute a great deal of my success to the people at the ADL. But I too had to assume responsibility for my future. I took their advice and made an appointment at my earliest possible convienience. I did what they asked of me, and they fulfilled their end of the bargain.
The ADL's function is not mearly to see to it that you get the un-employment benefit that the you AND the employer contributed to, but to get people back into the work force ASAP, hence the term "rapid response."
However, to gain maximum results, the response team at ADL cannot possibly achieve this on their own! There must be a desire and willingness to seek the help and take action on the part of the un-employed.
A lay off or loss of employment is often a life changing event. But that change is not always bad ... especially if one is determined!!! Most of us have life goals and a path mapped out to achieve those goals. Rarely do we reach our destination without changing direction or taking a detour at some point! That doesn't mean our goal has changed, just the path to reaching it!
Good luck to all those affected by this unfortunate closure. Stick together... help each other and you will find you will in deed help yourselves! Take Carolyn's advice and get the ball rolling NOW!

Seafarer 08/03/13 - 11:01 am
Unemployment Compensation Lowest

Try living for one month on unemployment in this state and you'll be in line for food stamps. We get the highest rate and it's not enough to pay half our mortgage. To go from $3500 a month to $1800 is very difficult.

Alaska has one of the lowest unemployment compensation in the US and the highest cost of living.

spwright 08/03/13 - 11:32 am
Corporate America

8/3/13 It's the Corporate America Way. 1000,s of American Labor are Laid Off & end up in the street meanwhile back at the ranch the CEO of these Corporations are awared Mult-Million Dollar packages for bringing that same Corporation to FAILURE that results in the loss of 1000,s of American Jobs.
They reward the CEO for FAILURE w/ Millions of Dollars.

Don't Ya just Love It when a Management Type says " Don't Think of this as Losing Your Job, Think of this as a OPPORTUNITY to improve your future " Kinda makes your Blood Boil doesn't it. SPW

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 08/03/13 - 04:44 pm
The new culture

Seafarer, The unemployment insurance program was never meant to replace your full income. Just as SSI was never meant to provide your full retirement. When I lost my job, there was a possibility I could be out of work a very long time. I have and still do prepare for such and instance ahead of time. I save a little where I can and I never had a mortgage that over loaded my means. I don't (and never have had) credit card debt. I don't replace my vehicle every three years. In other words I live within my means.
The best possible thing to do would be to go the ADL and find out what they can do for you instead of simply staying at home and figuring out how you're gonna stretch pennies into dollars!
SPW, what makes my blood boil is to hear people constantly taking the low road and offering discouragement instead of encouragement, problems instead of solutions! I agree with your opinion of corporate greed. However, I must also agree with your last statement! "Think of this as a OPPORTUNITY to improve your future!" For me and several others, it DID provide opportunity. I am making roughly 30% more than I did at my previous employer and building a retirement much faster than I was. Several of my former co-workers are not in the same field as they were, but in a field they enjoy much more and is more satisfying. Some, unfortunately had to relocate to continue to provide for their families, but many of those people are happier now as well. Not all outcomes were rosey. But most of those who put in the effort, were rewarded. One can sit at home, take his pittance of unemployment, squander what savings he has by wasting time complaining of his plight. Or he can get to work ... trying to get to work! Try looking for solutions rather than problems and your future will be far more promising!
As for the subject line... We live in a new culture. One where we constantly complain, make excuses and blame the other guy. I want to know what happened to the days where one held themselves accountable and did something about their plight or indeed saw opportunity where some would see struggle.
Again, to my friends at CH2 ... Good luck, good fortune, and may you soon find not only employment, but opportunity!

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