Dixie Pellets closes doors

Published 4:39 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SELMA — Dixie Pellets has closed its doors, but for how long is the question.

The company, which manufactures wood pellets for heating, told about 70 workers Tuesday they should not return to work.

“We had an unusual and an unforeseen financial issue that arose yesterday that left no choice but to cease operations,” said Bruce Gornto, the plant’s manager. “We no longer have the funds to continue to operate.”

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Gornto said he is unsure if the plant will close permanently.

“It’s early,” he said. “We’re working with people to resolve the issue.”

Gornto said the company will work with the state’s rapid response team to help employees.

Rapid response services for employers are coordinated by each state under the U.S. Department of Labor. One of the missions of the rapid response team is to respond to layoffs and plant closings by quickly coordinating and providing immediate aid to companies and their affected workers.

Teams work with employers and employee representatives to maximize public and private resources to minimize the disruptions on companies, affected workers and communities associated with job loss.

Under the program employees may receive career counseling and job search assistance, resume preparation and interviewing skills workshops, information on the local labor market, unemployment insurance, information about education and training opportunities and information on health benefits and pensions.

Local officials said they had made all resources possible available to Dixie Pellets when they heard the news.

Dixie Pellets in Selma ships wood pellets made by compressing sawdust and other wood waste into dense, high-combustion fuel sources. Pollution regulations in Europe to prevent global climate change have seen people and industries on that continent use nearly eight million tons of wood pellets a year to run their factories and power plants or heat houses in neighborhoods.

Dixie Pellets is a private company categorized under pellet mills or mining and manufacturing. It was established in 2006 in Selma.

Dixie Pellets is built on County Road 78 next to the Alabama River on a 25-acre site that once was a state docks grain facility. It opened officially in 2008.

Estimates from its initial year in Selma show the company had an annual revenue of $120,000.

Dixie Pellets was a project of New Gas Concepts, which has engineering operations in Birmingham. Initially the Selma-based plant had expected to ship two million tons of the wood pellets each year.