Zurn Pex employees to receive assistance from city

Commerce – Two weeks after officials at Zurn Pex in Commerce announced they would be laying most of its workforce in the coming months, we learn of what the city is doing to help.

Executive Director with the Commerce Economic Development Office Jeanette Burnette says one of several things being planned is a job fair, either in late April or early May. Texas A&M University-Commerce has already agreed to co-sponsor the event.

Burnette is working to bring businesses such as Ocean Spray in Sulphur Springs to the event, who recently had an expansion. Fritz is a furniture polishing company that is set to open soon in Greenville. She's also contacted Campbell soup and Kimberly Clark in Paris, as well as the Texas Department of Transportation Office in Paris, who could be in need of workers if entitled to a portion of stimulus money for upcoming projects.

Dr. Hal Langford, Dean of the College of Business and Technology at A&M-Commerce is planning on conducting a severance package seminar, which according to Burnette, will inform outgoing Zurn employees of how to spend their money wisely.

"To help them to have the knowledge to know the best way to spend their money and don't do it frivolously, because you don't know how long it's going to be before we can help you find another job," says Burnette.

A date has not yet been set for the seminar.

One program already set for April 21 has Workforce Solutions out of Greenville coming to town and speaking with employees during five separate classes. Officials will provide Zurn employees with instructions on a number of items such as how to accurately apply for unemployment and where to go online or in Greenville where they can fill out resumes and applications for jobs available in Texas.

Account Manager with Texas Workforce solutions in Greenville George Kronke says the same classes were offered for employees of Goody's Family Clothing store in Greenville after they announced they would be closing their store in January. The classes were sparsely attended, however, possibly because they were held after hours. Officials want to avoid the same lack of attendance this time around, therefore are holding all five classes at Zurn during business hours.

Burnette says the CDC is working to help all Zurn employees in any way possible.

"I've been through it, my husband personally has been through it and I know how devastating it can be. Not only financially but emotionally," says Burnette.

Another major goal of the programs and classes being offered is to prevent these individuals from leaving the area and keep them employed in the region.

Of the 108 employees to lose their jobs following layoffs, 40 are residents of Commerce. Of those employees, there are 34 children enrolled in the Commerce Independent School District.

The failure to keep students in local schools can have a drastic impact on the local economy.

Zurn announced earlier this month they would begin in May the first string of layoffs. The job cuts are blamed on the decline in the home building industry.

One positive, according to Burnette, is a state law that requires employers to give 60 days notice if they are to make major job cuts.

"That helps because it gives us an opportunity to react."