St. Cloud Electrolux closure impacts many, including WACOSA


Ben Kiewel

The Electrolux factory closing in St. Cloud, this is the main entrance.

Electrolux announced on Jan. 30, 2018 that they would be closing their St. Cloud factory, however, workers still haven’t been told the exact date of closure. As the fifth largest employer in St. Cloud closing the factory will deal a huge blow to the St. Cloud area.

The St. Cloud Times estimated that almost 900 employees will be out of work and a total of 1,800 jobs around the area. With no date set for closure, these community members are left uncertain and anxious. They shouldn’t be alone in their fear.

Although you may not be aware of the Electrolux company’s presence, you could definitely be affected by the economic ripple. In the same study, the St. Cloud Times calculated $102.6 million in labor income lost and a $670.1 million in economic output in their analysis. Right now the unemployment rate in the St. Cloud area is relatively low but could be pushed higher after the huge crater left behind by Electrolux’s vacancy.

Ben Kiewel
The WACOSA administrative building. WACOSA is a non-profit that employs adults with special needs.

Another important demographic that will feel this factory closure is the WACOSA clients (this is what WACOSA calls the people they serve) employed through Electrolux. WACOSA employs adults with disabilities all around the St. Cloud area. A large number of their clients perform contract work through Electrolux, in fact, around 300 WACOSA clients work through this contract. WACOSA has started looking for options in the area for their employees losing their Electrolux jobs.

The contract work means the clients actually assemble and perform the job at WACOSA. Electrolux sends products to be assembled or packaged to WACOSA. When Electrolux closes WACOSA will not receive these products anymore, losing out on a large chunk of their available work on site.

The clients employed through WACOSA are not looking for handouts and are definitely able to work passionately. They strive to be part of their community and contribute through their hard work. Ann Kennedy, the WACOSA Sales and Marketing Manager, answered a few questions about how the closure will impact WACOSA.

Q: What was the initial reaction when the planned closure was announced?
Ann Kennedy: “WACOSA was sorry to hear about the closure of Electrolux, not only for how it would affect WACOSA, but how it would affect our entire community and other vendors who work closely with the St. Cloud Electrolux plant. While as major as this closing is, the WACOSA team immediately went to what we do well: innovative and strategic thinking. Barriers are something our clients’ face every day, working to break down those barriers is where we shine.”

Q: About how many WACOSA workers will be left without a job after the closure?
Ann Kennedy: “The closure of Electrolux will affect over 300 people at WACOSA. Due to our business model, it isn’t that people will be left with no work, it will be less work until we come up with solutions and other employment opportunities for those we serve. For example, some people worked solely on Electrolux, we will shift those workers to assist with other jobs. The reality is that means the people working on those “other jobs” will have less work to do as we spread it out amongst all the clients. This means that the closure, in some ways, effects all of us at WACOSA.”

Q: Has WACOSA made any plans regarding those who won’t have a job after the closure?
Ann Kennedy: “WACOSA is working aggressively towards solutions for those affected by the closure of Electrolux.

We are:

  • Meeting monthly for brainstorming sessions
  • Looking at increasing our sales force
  • Bolstering collaborative and business relationships
  • Looking at other business opportunities that WACOSA can establish, such as our DocuShred document destruction company or ThriftWorks! our thrift store
  • Expanding current offerings, such as DocuShred and ThriftWorks!”

Q: Are there any other places in St. Cloud that have offered to hire some of those affected?
Ann Kennedy: “Since WACOSA serves nearly 700 adults with disabilities annually, we are always working with area businesses to expand our footprint in our community. We have had some new businesses establish relationships with WACOSA, we’ve seen current customers increase what they are doing with WACOSA, and thanks to local media and collaborators, we are getting the word out to our community that we need their help to continue to find new opportunities for those we serve. With so many talented workers here at WACOSA, we are always looking for new opportunities.”

Q: Finally, is there anything else you’d like the student body to know about WACOSA or how the Electrolux closure will affect your non-profit organization?
Ann Kennedy: “The student body is the future of our amazing community. We encourage all students to learn more about what non-profits do for our community. If time allows, consider volunteering for an organization whose mission aligns with what you are passionate about. Understand what a difference you can make in the lives of others. You can start to make that difference by just saying hello to someone who isn’t like you.”

Ann Kennedy
Provided by Ann Kennedy: A picture of a WACOSA client on the job

Hopefully, WACOSA can resolve any issues from the closure, like the others affected by the aftermath of the Electrolux shut down. After a year of waiting for an exact closure date, many will still be left looking for their next step once the facility finally closes its doors.

Ann Kennedy
Contributed by Ann Kennedy: Another WACOSA client happily performing his job

Do you know someone who will be impacted by the Electrolux factory closure?

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