Freeport McMoRan, a major employer in Norwich, is closing its Norwich plant due to a downturn in business and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure is expected to affect 107 workers.
In a notice to the Department of Labor, the manager of the Norwich plant, James Hodson, wrote that the company has reviewed operations in light of the, "dramatic downturn in business and economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic." He said that after careful consideration they have made the decision to close the plant.
The announcement comes as the City of Norwich is already facing job loss and business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment in the city has skyrocketed since March. According to data from the Connecticut Department of Labor, Norwich had the highest unemployment rate out of any municipality in the state for the month of May - 21.2 percent.
“It is a devastating hit for us as we try to recover from the COVID-19 impacts," said Mayor Peter Nystrom. “We have to make our best effort to change the decision.”
Nystrom said that Freeport McMoRan has been in the city for nearly 40 years. He added that they are the number one electric user in the city. Their closure would not only impact Norwich Public Utilities, but the city as a whole.
"That is a substantial loss of revenue," said Nystrom.
As soon as Nystrom learned of the closure he said that he started to make phone calls to various city leaders, partners and politicians to develop a plan moving forward.
“You have to think about developing a game plan for what do you do about that type of news," said Jason Vincent, senior vice president of the Norwich Community Development Corporation.
Vincent said that while the team's ultimate goal is for the company to reverse its decision, they are also hoping to learn how they can help assist the workers who will be laid off and develop a plan for what comes next.
“How might we position it to be used by someone else should Freeport decide to sell it," said Vincent.
Nystrom said that the city has requested a meeting with the corporate team of Freeport McMoRan.
"They are very much part of our community. We value them very much and we want to demonstrate that," said Nystrom.