WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Last week, Williamsport manufacturer SHOP-VAC abruptly announced they were closing their doors and laying off hundreds of employees. Those layoffs, announced without notice, were the largest scale layoffs in the Williamsport area in years.
Now, city officials are trying to mitigate the economic losses that could be sustained as a result.
“That would be a tragedy for us here as a community because we need to keep skilled workers here and we need to keep workers here so that when another manufacturer is looking for a place to relocate, we have a workforce ready for them,” Rick Mirabito, Lycoming County commissioner told Eyewitness News.
Until Tuesday, that endeavor had been difficult, as SHOP-VAC had not released contact information for the hundreds of employees laid off via last week’s announcement. Mirabito says that list has been made available and will be key in placing those now left unemployed.
“The information will enable the state Department of Labor and Industry, as well as Career Link and the other organizations that partner with us, to get these people back to work,” Mirabito said.
City Councilman Adam Yoder says it’s a trend representative of the area’s current economic struggles.
“It’s unfortunately a recurring theme, which really demonstrates the point of how do we refocus our economic development efforts so that they’re in line with the 21st century economy and not necessarily 20 or 30 years ago,” Yoder said.
Yoder believes the demand for labor is there but there is improvement to be made in utilizing city assets, including Williamsport’s two major colleges, to meet supply.
“Talking to a number of employers in the area, they have a really hard time finding skilled labor,” Yoder said. “So, there’s really got to be a way where we can leverage the number of assets that we have here to reinvest in our workforce.”
The City of Williamsport is already putting the recently released information from SHOP-VAC to use. The chamber of commerce announced Tuesday afternoon that a job fair will be held on October 7 at Liberty Arena in downtown Williamsport.
The first three hours of that event, from 9 a.m. to noon, are specifically for former employees of SHOP-VAC looking for work in the area.