Former Celgard employees sound-off

Former Celgard employees sound-off


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

Posted on February 27, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 27 at 7:41 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- The highly publicized Celgard company, once the site of a Presidential visit has cut 50 jobs for a second time in less than three years.

The makers of lithium-ion battery part used in hybrids and electric vehicles was touted by the Obama Administration as an example of the future’s clean energy industry.  Monday morning, however, many employees in Concord and Charlotte were told they no longer had a job.

“7:30 in the morning they said shut the machines off,” says Robbie Wright.

Within one hour Wright himself found he, too, was unemployed with two days of severance pay.

“It's really a sad thing because we had such high expectations,” Wright exclaimed.

Wright, a technician, left a higher paying job one year ago to set roots in a company he believed would see extraordinary growth.

“We were told everything we could make for the next three years is already sold, we couldn't make enough, but it just never happened,” he said.

Cindy Livengood, a former machinist close to retirement age, was among 40 let go in November.

"They downsized me, they did not lay-me off because the business was not as good as it should be. I had hoped to retire from there. Honestly, I had every intention of working there for a long time,” she expressed.

In late 2010, Celgard, a subsidiary of Charlotte-based Polypore International, broke ground on a 150,000 square-foot manufacturing plant in Concord.  It was part of the company’s $100 million expansion plan.

Livengood thinks the company exaggerated market demand for its products and failed to manage the additional $49 million it received in federal stimulus funds.

“This money was given to us by the government to start the business, and I don't think the business is utilizing the money that was given to them in the way it should have been utilized,” Livengood said, “I just feel like a lot of taxpayer money has been wasted.”

The company spokesperson told NBC Charlotte, Celgard has invested more of its own capital to sustain its future. She added that the labor adjustments have no bearing on the stimulus grant, rather is a response to its own economic indicators and forecasted demand.

“I feel very cheated,” said Livengood.

”I had perfect attendance. I can't figure out why I was selected and others were selected. We really just don't know what was going on,” says Wright.