By Steve Guntli
The Intalco Works aluminum plant in Ferndale will idle operations indefinitely, potentially putting hundreds of locals out of work.
Alcoa announced earlier this month it would cease production at plants in Ferndale and Wenatchee. The company cited the decreased international price for aluminum for the decision.
The Intalco plant employs 583 people. The cutbacks are expected to be complete by the end of March 2016.
Not all of the operations will be suspended. The cast house, where molten aluminum is shaped and crafted, will remain open. The cast house currently employs about 100 people.
The plant went through a similar shutdown in 2001, when high energy prices led to a temporary shutdown. In that instance, employees received reduced pay and benefits, but current employees can likely expect severance packages and outreach programs.
The shutdown could have implications for the county as a whole. The Alcoa plant and its employees are frequent contributors to local charity groups, particularly those that focus on education and the environment. The company donated approximately $200,000 to the United Way over the last decade.
Alcoa could not provide an estimate for when or if operations at the plant could resume. Communications director Josh Wilund said it would depend on factors such as the global economy, energy pricing and capital investments.