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West Fargo-based wind tower manufacturer DMI to cut jobs

WEST FARGO, N.D. - West Fargo-based wind tower producer DMI Industries is reducing the size of its work force.

Company officials began telling employees Sunday that some would be terminated due to production demands for 2009 that are significantly lower than projected.

No information was immediately available about the number of people who will be affected.

DMI President Stefan Nilsson said officials will not comment on the work-force reduction until all employees have been informed.

A formal announcement will be made today, he said.

Employees who worked two separate shifts Sunday received a letter that said DMI "is not immune to the combined effects of the troubled credit markets and a contracting economy."

The letter said the company does not have enough production demand to support the present work force.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern heard the news Sunday night from three DMI employees.

"Quite frankly, I was shocked," Mattern said. "I thought they were bulletproof. I never guessed that they would be in trouble."

Last June, the Otter Tail Corp. subsidiary announced it would add 50 to 75 employees at the West Fargo plant in a $20 million expansion expected to increase wind tower production by 40 percent.

At the time of that announcement, 350 people worked at the West Fargo site.

"We all thought they were doing really, really well," Mattern said. "They're one of our cream-of-the-crop companies."

Mattern said the DMI employees who called him Sunday night expressed concerns about being able to afford child care and other expenses.

Employees will be given at least a three-week severance package, the letter states. Long-term employees will be eligible for up to six weeks' pay.

An employee who worked the 6 p.m. shift Sunday said workers who were being terminated were separated from the others and taken into the break room, where they were given the termination letters.

DMI also has plants in Tulsa, Okla., and Fort Erie, Ont.

Last June, the company announced it would increase production in Tulsa by 100 percent. In October, it announced a 25 percent production increase for Fort Erie.

A recent New York Times article about how North Dakota's economy is booming compared to the rest of the nation touted DMI's expansion and included a photograph of the West Fargo plant.

However, Otter Tail Corp. officials cited "growing pains" at DMI last August as one reason for a $12 million drop in the corporation's second-quarter net income.

At the time, officials said the declining revenues were due to disappointing results at DMI, as well as Fergus Falls-based waterfront manufacturer ShoreMaster.

John Erickson, Otter Tail Corp. president and CEO, told The Forum in August, "We are experiencing significant growing pains at DMI as the company ramps up at its newer locations and continues to integrate new customers."