A major employer in the San Angelo region is closing shop due to the slump in oil prices. Friday, National Oilwell Varco, Inc. (NOV on the NYSE) notified the Texas Workforce Commission via a Working Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letter that the international company with $33 billion in shareholder equity plans to close their facility off U.S. 87 and Grape Creek Road north of San Angelo. They reported that the facility will begin the drawdown of all employees Jan. 16, 2016 and completely close by Jan. 29.
NOV announced in their third quarter SEC filings that the profitable company is focusing its efforts on cost savings and preserving cash to make acquisitions and for research and development. “We believe our strong financial resources will enable National Oilwell Varco to invest in the extraordinary opportunities that will arise from this downturn, and we expect to emerge with greater capability and efficiency. In the meantime, with limited visibility into the timing of a recovery, we remain focused on managing costs and improving performance, while continuing to develop technologies that help our customers to improve their returns in a lower commodity price world,” NOV CEO and Chairman Clay C. Williams said in a press release Oct. 28.
Lost to the local economy in the closure will be 120 well-paying jobs with benefits. A scan of old NOV job openings on Internet job boards reveals the general range of pay for the lost jobs is $12-$18 per hour, or $24,960 - $37,440 annually.
Cathy Ballard, the local Texas Workforce Commission board member charged with San Angelo’s Rapid Response Team said the TWC has initiated the process to help the displaced workers find government assistance, retraining, or a new job placement. “We are genuinely concerned for the welfare of these employees,” Ballard said in a phone interview. She said that the US Dept. of Labor Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) would help pick up some of the pieces.
Displaced workers from NOV will be eligible for financial assistance to retrain into another field of work, or go obtain a degree. If there is a silver lining, Ballard said, with displacement comes opportunity. “There may be someone working there who has the ambition to do something completely different, like be a nurse, for example. We’ll help that person get the degree that they need to pursue that dream.” Ballard said.
Displaced workers will be eligible for short term government assistance like unemployment benefits, health care for their children via the state-run children’s Medicaid, or CHIP, and SNAP food benefits (food stamps).
San Angelo Chamber of Commerce President Phil Neighbors acknowledged that the news is not upbeat. “We were sorry to hear of NOV's closure, as they've been a valued employer here for a number of years,” he said. Grape Creek VFD Chief Jose Rivera noted, “Their employees are a good supporters of our volunteer fire department.”
In WorkInTexas.com, the online database of statewide jobs, Ballard said there are currently 1068 open positions available in the San Angelo area. WorkInTexas.com contains advertisements for about 30 percent of the region’s job openings, Ballard said.
To be eligible for government benefits however, all of NOV’s employees must stay on the job until their termination date, Ballard said. That requirement makes it difficult to accept a new job until NOV completely shuts its San Angelo operation down in January.
Neighbors hopes the workers stay in the area. “The Concho Valley Workforce Development Board is making its services available to all impacted employees, including job location services, especially in fields like welding and truck driving where there are jobs posted in this area, as well as job training and skills development programs offered by the Board to dislocated workers,” he said in a statement.