ICM lays off more employees

By Bryan Sims | October 06, 2008
Web exclusive posted Oct. 8, 2008 at 4:40 p.m. CST

On Oct. 3, leading ethanol plant design/builder and process technology provider ICM Inc. laid off 73 employees. This is the second staff reduction at ICM this year. The Colwich, Kan.-based company laid off 105 employees in April.

"We are a people and relationship-oriented company, so this was a very painful decision to make, particularly when we have to put forth tremendous effort to attract new business," said Dave Vander Griend, president and chief executive officer of ICM.

With a sluggish economy on the brink of an impending recession that has hampered both the capital and credit markets, coupled with a declining U.S. dollar, traditional lending activities have been difficult across all markets, including the ethanol industry. ICM attributes the massive destabilization of the national banking system, along with the consolidation of investment firms, as major drivers behind the decision to reduce its workforce.

"Our customers continue to face difficult challenges in obtaining the working capital they need to finance the design and construction of biorefineries," Vander Griend said. "Although we continue to have strong interest from customers for new projects, simply put, the Wall Street crisis prevents them from proceeding at present."

ICM's layoff will certainly impact the growth of the corn-based ethanol industry as the company is involved with approximately 17 ethanol plants currently under construction that employ ICM's unique ethanol process technology; 15 facilities are slated to start up before the end of March 2009.

"We believe market conditions will improve," Vander Griend said, "but, it will take time for investor confidence to recover."

ICM now employs about 500 employees. Prior to the spring layoff, ICM had approximately 671. Vander Griend said the company will provide job placement assistance and career counseling to the laid off employees. ICM will host a job fair on Oct. 10.

Vander Griend said ICM remains committed to its focus on research and development, adding that the company is actively diversifying its biofuels production technologies to accommodate the utilization of new non food-based feedstocks and specialty energy crops to propagate the commercialization of next-generation biofuels.

Founded in 1995, ICM has designed and engineered 84 ethanol plants that are operating throughout North America and its technology is behind approximately 4.3 billion gallons of ethanol production.