ICM reduces its workforce

By Bryan Sims | April 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted April 17, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. CST

ICM Inc., the ethanol industry's leading designer and process technology provider, has reduced its workforce by 105 employees, citing a sluggish economy and the declining U.S. dollar which the company said has made it difficult to find lenders to fund domestic projects.

According to ICM, "the credit crisis has destabilized traditional lending activities across all sectors." Additionally, "the doubling of corn prices converging with the rise of material costs for the construction of facilities are also significant factors that have served as a catalyst to strategically analyze and address current market conditions," the company noted.

The layoffs affect multiple departments at ICM, which had been on a rapid growth curve over the past several years. Prior to the layoffs, ICM had more than doubled the size of its headquarters in Colwich, Kan., building two new office projects. Prior to the layoffs, the company employed 671 workers.

"This was an extremely difficult decision for ICM to make," said ICM President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Vander Griend. "This announcement is no way a reflection of the valued work performed by our employees. During recent quarterly luncheons, I have addressed the volatile market conditions that have persisted, such as commodity market concerns and the projects slowdown. Regrettably, the challenging market environment requires that we take this action."

Affected employees were provided with detailed information concerning extended benefits and severance pay provided by the company. The workers will also receive job placement assistance and counseling through ICM's employee assistance program. In addition, ICM has invited several Colwich, Kan., area employers to participate in a job fair on April 18 to assist the former employees.

"It is our belief that conditions will improve, but for now we must take necessary action to sustain the health and future of our company," Vander Griend added. "We recognize the impact of this on our employees and we'll do our best to work with them through this difficult period."

Similar to how ethanol producers have faced high corn prices and low ethanol spot prices on the market which have crimped profit margins, ethanol designers such as ICM have also experienced challenging times. Construction costs have risen rapidly, driven in part by higher petroleum products, transportation costs and the high demand for steel building materials, which are paid at a premium from being primarily sourced overseas.

Founded in 1995, ICM has designed and engineered more than 75 dry-mill ethanol plants that are operating in the U.S. and Canada. There are 25 plants currently under construction which are using ICM's ethanol process technology. Since 1995, ICM has produced 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol production in North America.

Vander Griend said ICM remains committed to its focus on research and development, adding, the company expects to be a leader in the effort to develop and commercialize innovative biomass-to-ethanol technologies in the future.

"The staff reductions are, without question, the most difficult actions we've had to take," he said. "We're going to remain committed to the long-term growth opportunities for our company and our industry. We're confident that the biofuels industry will continue to mature and achieve greater growth."