Posted: Jul 23, 2011 9:43 AM by Laura Wilson (KAJ News)
Updated: Jul 23, 2011 11:22 AM
LIBBY- Montana's unemployment numbers could drop in Lincoln County where the job outlook is especially grim because Stinger Welding is now looking to hire additional workers. Libby has struggled with asbestos contamination and a dwindling economy for years.
"There's been a lot of stories done about the tragedy in Libby with W.R. Grace and the mine," Flathead Valley Community College Lincoln County Campus Director Pat Pezzelle explained.
resident. "Everybody wants to remember that story so we don't repeat that story, but at the same time, we would like that story to start moving positively."
Thanks to a new deal which promises to finance the construction of a Libby fabrication plant, residents may finally get that wish. Stinger Welding's current steel plant employs about 40 people and the new plant will create more than 100 new jobs.
"We chose Libby, Montana because of its unemployment. That's what brought us here basically because of the amount of people that were unemployed in this area--and the Northwest marketplace for our bridge market," Stinger Welding President Carl Douglas commented.
The property was once home to the deadliest Superfund site in the country, but local residents are now hoping that this same site will help decrease their county's high unemployment rate.
"One hundred jobs in a community of 2,500 people- that's a lot of jobs. That's a lot of new growth, so I'm real hopeful about that," Pezzelle pointed out.
The deal comes during the same year that FVCC introduced a welding program to its students, which is specifically tailored to Stinger's workforce requirements.
"We provide a training process that in 10 weeks, someone can go get a job. In talking to Carl Douglas and Steve Patrick at Stinger, there primary interest is they would love to be able to hire local," Pezzelle said.
"The best thing we can offer the young people is jobs. It's so hard when they don't have much to look forward to, or if people have to leave our community because they can't make a living," Libby resident Jan Meadows told us.
Residents say with more money to spend, there's more potential for economic growth in Libby.
"We're projecting a $5 to $7 million dollar a year payroll here. So if turn that around in the community four or five times, it will be great for the them," Douglas stated.
"Yes we do need some positive things to make us look ahead and know that we're going to be successful," Meadows added.
Stinger Welding has already hired 20 more workers and plans to increase its workforce to more than 100 people by Christmas.