Friday, 22 January 2010

Slow Coast gets slower: Cemex announces it is shutting its Davenport plant

By Kurtis Alexander - Santa Cruz Sentinel

DAVENPORT - One of the county's oldest businesses and a momentous chapter in the region's economic history closed Friday.

Manufacturing giant Cemex announced that its Santa Cruz County cement plant, opened in 1906 to help build a state hungry for growth and responsible for such construction feats as the Golden Gate Bridge and California Aqueduct, would cease operation.

Cemex officials had closed the facility temporarily last year, citing the weak economy, but only on Friday did they completely surrender to it.

"It's a business decision, but it's a tough one," said Cemex spokeswoman Jennifer Borgen. "We've been in this community for over a century. It's a sad day."

The announcement comes just before release of the Mexico-based company's fourth-quarter earnings report, which analysts expect will show disappointing losses for the international heavyweight. Borgen didn't tie Friday's closure to the financial forecast, but acknowledged the company's recent money problems as the driver.

"I don't think it's any secret about the economy and what the industry is going through now," she said.

The Davenport plant, with its tower and stacks defining the North Coast skyline, employed roughly 120 people. Most of those employees had been out of work since the factory suspended operations in March, but many had not expected the closure to become permanent.

"The news was a bombshell," said Manuel Rodriguez, who worked for 10 years at the plant, where he drove a water truck. "I'm wondering what the hell I'm going to do now. I've got a mortgage to pay. I'm 50 years old, going on 51, and there's no jobs out there."

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