COLUMN: Ardagh Glass Packaging – Back to the future

Ardagh Glass Packaging’s announcement of the impending closure of their Simsboro facility appears to have been a complete surprise to local officials and employees.  It is not clear whether the local management team had any indication of the closure.  All media correspondence and information have been provided by their corporate communications department.  The news would be concerning for most communities, but with Lincoln Parish’s shortage of “anchor” employers, it is extremely concerning news.  I would define an “anchor” employer as one that employees 100 people or more, favorably impacts other businesses in the region, and brings in earnings from outside the region.   

I have seen this situation playout all too often over my 30+ years in business.  I have stood in front of over 150 employees on three different occasions and announced plant closures.  Those decisions were not mine alone by any means, but I was given the assignment of making the announcement to the people.  I can attest that those announcements and ensuing discussions are every bit as difficult as you would imagine.  Even though I understood the business justification, I was always impacted by the impact on the people.  The people that came to work every day and did everything asked of them only to still lose their job due to circumstances outside of their control.  Those are gut-wrenching events to say the least!

In the Ardagh case, I read where their corporate press release mentioned enhancing overall performance, optimizing performance, and committing to customers.  I saw where they referred to weakening customer demand as a factor in their closure decision.  Whether it was a decline in Budweiser sales, the impact of an overall economic decline in demand, a change in State tax incentives, or some combination of all these factors, the fact remains that the facility will be closing and closing soon.  The one thing that I have not seen in any of the corporate press release information is a reference to the people impacted.  I have not seen any comment of remorse, concern, or support for the people comprising this workforce.  I am confident the local management team is doing all they can for the people, but these managers are impacted as well.  

I hope we are not returning to a time when large corporations manipulate facilities and people as merely cost items on financial statements with no regard for the human factor.  I recall mass layoffs and total disregard for people being so prevalent back in the 1980’s.   Those were times where trust was lacking, and loyalty was taken for granted.  As the national government continues to work to fight inflation by slowing the economy, I am afraid we may see more examples of business closures and mass layoffs.  

So where do we go from here in Lincoln Parish?  We need to continue to pursue economic development.  We need to seek to get every vacant restaurant building back in service.  We need to seek to get every vacant building back in use.  Getting vacant buildings occupied and productive is good for any community.  However, we also need to continue to seek those “anchor” employers that I mentioned earlier.  We need companies that produce products or services that bring outside revenues and wealth into our community.  Local service-oriented businesses are good as they keep local money in the parish, but we need to also have businesses that bring in money from outside the region.  Economic development is tough work and requires many people and multiple levels of local and state government working together.

We need economic development first and foremost for the people of Lincoln Parish. Our people need reliable work opportunities.  Furthermore, economic development attracts people, generates tax revenues, and attracts other businesses.  We need to all support the efforts of our local officials, local Chamber, and others involved in seeking answers to this challenge.  I don’t know if we are going back to the future or not, but we need to be taking charge of our future!