New education opportunities could help former Nordyne employees

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BOONVILLE - Maggie's Bar and Grill in Boonville was packed on a Friday evening at 5:30. Bartender Ethel Howard flies behind the bar, trying to serve every patiently waiting customer.

Up until four years ago, Howard worked at the Nordyne furnace plant in Boonville. She had been there for more than a decade.

"I left Nordyne when we first heard that the plant was intending to close," Howard said. "I thought I'd get a jump on things and get out early."

At the end of January, the Nordyne plant began to fulfill its intention to begin layoffs before it closes in the summer. Many employees have already been laid off, with many more to go. 

This isn't the first big closure in Boonville. Since 2011, Boonville has lost many businesses that have cost hundreds of jobs.

This time though the city has a plan. The local community college, State Fair, has actually parterned with Nordyne to offer employees some opportunities. 

State Fair has two locations, one in Boonville and one in Sedalia. Kinsey Feldmann Dona is the director of the Boonville location, and said they will be working to provide people with different programs and certifications to help them retrain for a new job or even finish a degree, all for free.

"They're also eligible for TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) funding, so it's the Trade Act," she said. "That can be available for them to continue any type of retraining for another career path. They have a two year span to complete a program and it's completely paid for."

Howard said although she enjoys working at Maggie's, she wishes she had stuck it out for a few years instead of quitting.

"Had I stuck with Nordyne until the end I would have been able to go back to school and they would have paid for it," she said. "The school would have been great, and I still could have done it part time and bettered myself."

Feldmann Dona said every Wednesday school representatives will be at the Nordyne plant during the lunch hour to answer questions and help people fill out applications.

"We're going to do as much stuff there as possible so they could have as much information whenever they leave," she said. 

She said they've already had many curious people taking advantage of the help.

"We have had a handful of students that have come in and inquired about starting and getting everything going," she said. "But their TAA benefits aren't eligible until they are officially laid off."

Howard has friends who will be taking advantage of the opportunities State Fair and Nordyne are offering, and she thinks they'll be moving on to bigger and better things because of the education opportunities.

"I think that's going to give them that opportunity because of the assistance they're going to get for this," she said.

Feldmann Dona said there will be a Resource Fair held on the State Fair campus in Boonville on March 19th, when most of the employees will have probably already been laid off.

According to the Boonville Daily News, there will also be a job fair sometime in April for those who are interested in different employment options. 

Howard said although the plant leaving will hurt Boonville, she thinks someone will buy the vacant plant and people will be able to be employed again.

"It's definitely going to hurt, but I've already heard gossip that other people are looking to buy the building so I'm sure we'll get another business," she said.