One of the largest employers in Owen County plans to close in the next 18 to 24 months, leaving more than 400 people out of work, according to local officials.
Representatives of Itron Inc. told local officials this week that the company will shutter the plant and move production to South Carolina, Judge-Executive Casey Ellis said in an “emergency update” on the county government website.
The news “caught us by surprise to say the very least,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he and other local officials talked with Itron representatives Thursday, but that it seems there is nothing the county or state can “say, do or offer” to get the company to stay in Owenton.
“In today’s economy, they feel it is imperative that they reorganize themselves to be able to stay competitive in the market, and the only way to do this is to consolidate facilities to become more efficient,” Ellis said.
The plan is to phase out the plant, not shut it down all at once, said county Magistrate Teresa Davis.
The state Cabinet for Economic Development lists employment at Itron at 411. The plant, established in 1978, makes natural-gas meters, gas regulators and fittings, according to the cabinet.
A company spokeswoman on Friday confirmed the decision to close the plant.
Itron has facilities in several states and more than 30 countries.
Davis said the plant and the school system are the county’s largest employers.
Local officials pledged to work hard to try to get another employer into the plant.
“We’re definitely looking,” Davis said.
Ellis asked people to keep Itron employees in their thoughts and prayers.
“This is going to be a tough transition for the employees, their families and the community as a whole,” Ellis said. “We must come together to help one another in finding our new path.”