County leaders look for ways to absorb loss of REC Silicon plant

County leaders look for ways to absorb loss of REC Silicon plant

You don’t need to look very far to put a face to the trade war between the U.S. and China.

REC Silicon, one of Grant County’s largest employers, will stop production at its Moses Lake plant on Friday after China’s 57 percent tariff on U.S.-made polysilicon proved to be too much. The manufacturing giant has struggled to adjust and has been operating at just 25 percent in recent months.

CFO James May told KXLY in July China makes up about 80% of REC’s business. The plant has tried to adjust and find other markets, but it’s proven to be nearly impossible — so now, it’s looking like a longtime pillar of Grant County is about to come crashing down.

“They have been a longtime community supporter and a longtime employer for Grant County,” said county business recruitment manager Emily Smith. “We really want to be able to keep these employees within our area.”

Smith works on the Grant County Economic Development Council, which is trying to come up with a plan to absorb the loss of REC, which has had to lay off hundreds since the trade war with China began in 2013.

“These are great jobs. Their wages and benefits is over $100,000 per job. So that’s a big impact to our community,” Smith said.

It’s an even bigger impact, Smith said, when you consider the fact that this plant is a job multiplier. Smith told KXLY for every job created at REC Silicon, about five other jobs are created for suppliers and support services in Grant County.

“The total number of jobs that’s actually going to be lost to our community is much higher than the REC jobs alone,” Smith said.

Now, the focus turns to how to keep all those employees in Moses Lake without the promise and opportunities at REC. Smith said the economic development council’s plan is still working to sort out a plan alongside its partners at SkillSource, the Employment Security Department and Big Bend Community College.

Once the plant shuts down operations on Friday, it will keep its remaining 150 employees on until the end of June, in hopes progress is made in the trade war with China.

“We really hope the tariff is lifted,” Smith said. “Because if the tariff is lifted, REC will be able to continue on.”

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