More than 700 workers in Newton will lose their jobs by the end of the year.
According to a notice on the state workforce development website, TPI Composites of Newton, a maker of wind blade turbines, plans to lay off 710 workers by Dec. 31. The company previously warned of a possible plant shutdown, and the notice posted Monday made the layoffs official. The notice was labeled as a “closing.” Further information was not immediately available Monday.
The Des Moines Register previously reported that TPI has supplied wind turbine blades to General Electric. Executives made the warning about the layoffs as contract negotiations with GE were continuing last month. The company had a contact for GE to continue buying blades through the end of the year. TPI warned of not having any business lined up for next year and blamed various economic factors, such as the increased cost of raw materials and debate in Congress about tax credits for wind energy providers, leading to an anticipated suspension at the facility at the end of 2021.
Newton Mayor Mike Hansen and TPI did not return messages for comment by late Tuesday afternoon.
TPI is one of the major employers for the city of about 15,800 people in Jasper County, east of Des Moines. The company opened its factory a year after Maytag, the longtime key employer for Newton, shut down its local facilities in 2008 after being purchased by Whirlpool.
Arcosa Wind Towers in Newton announced in August that it would also lay off workers, with 82 employees expected to be affected by Tuesday. The company blamed market demand for wind towers.
TPI also closed a plant in Newton in 2020. The company produced parts for electric buses and shuttered the facility after investing in robots at a similar factory in Rhode Island, the Register previously reported. In a statement at the time, the company said that its wind blade facility could hire all of the bus factory’s 150 employees.
A Des Moines Register investigation in 2017 found hundreds of cases of skin injuries at the plant. The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration sued TPI for fire hazards, airborne contaminants, faulty record-keeping, falling hazards and a lack of adequate protective gear for workers. TPI settled the case for $100,000 while admitting no wrongdoing.
The company settled the case for $100,000 and admitted no wrongdoing.
In its most recent quarterly report, TPI reported that its operations lost $5.2 million in the first six months of this year, compared to a loss of $28.7 million during the same period last year.
In 2019, before the pandemic began, the company reported that its operations earned $15.9 million, before taxes and debt payments.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday he plans to send a letter to President Joe Biden to encourage him to get involved.
“President Biden’s made campaign promises of adding over 10 million green energy jobs,” Grassley told reporters. “He even said that workers in the fossil fuel industry would have new opportunities in clean energy when he shuts down fossil fuels. Yet in Iowa, people who already work in the clean energy sector … are getting pink slips.”
Grassley said he knows there’s little room for presidents and politicians to get involved in private contract negotiations, but he wants Biden to look into it.
He said he also plans to lobby the CEO of General Electric if he could.
“I’m going to at least plead with him to see about what can be done to maintain those jobs,” he said. “… I’ll bet in the decades I’ve been in the United States Senate, and I don’t know whether it’s five times or 15 times, but I’ll bet I’ve had General Electric people in my office. And I listen to them. They ought to listen to me in this instance. I’m involved in this because I care about Iowa families having good paying jobs like in Newton.”
Register reporters Tyler Jett and Brianne Pfannenstiel contributed to this report.