QMax Says It’s Closing Anchor USA in Wellsville

WELLSVILLE, Ohio — The fate of supplier of drilling fluid operating in the Wellsville Intermodal Facility may be uncertain, with the local company manager questioning reports, and a WARN notice from its parent company, that it is facing layoffs and potential closing.

Village Mayor Nancy Murray reported at the recent village council meeting she had received a Warn (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act letter, notifying her of pending layoffs at the QMax America warehouse in the Intermodal Park, formerly Anchor Drilling Co.

Q’Max acquired the company in 2017; it operates the barite processing facility and mud plant here as Anchor USA.

The WARN Act requires such notification of local officials by employers with 100 or more employees, providing 60-day advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

A copy of the May 4 letter was obtained Thursday from the village fiscal officer, Hoi Wah Black.

In it, Gwen Woodrell Gurnsey, human resource manager of Houston-based QMax, notified Murray of a “permanent plant closing” at the QMax America Wellsville Warehouse, 2400 Clark Ave., idling 31 employees.

The letter also said QMax is closing its Newcomerstown Warehouse in Newcomerstown, idling 39 employees.

Gurnsey cited May 8 as the expected date of the first separation, adding that QMax had been unable to give earlier notice because of “unforeseeable business circumstances,” including the “drastic reduction in oil demand and prices, and the forecast for decreasing demand due to the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.”

In addition, she wrote, shortly after the price war occurred, the COVID-19 pandemic became prevalent in the United States, exacerbating the reduction in demand.

According to Gurnsey’s letter, “COVID-19 directly impacted the operations of oil and gas service companies, such as QMax, involved in the upstream market of oil extraction. These events were not foreseeable and had resulted in QMax terminating employees and prevented QMax from providing earlier notice of the need to terminate its employees.”

When contacted by phone at her Houston office, Gurnsey declined to comment.

Contacted Thursday, Penny Traina, CEO of the Columbiana County Port Authority, which operates the Intermodal Facility, called Anchor USA “a great company. We have a great relationship with them.”

Until being contacted by the press, Traina was unaware of the WARN letter, any possible layoffs or plant closing.

“I have reached out every two to three weeks and everyone (at the port authority’s facilities) has said things are going well,” Traina said.

She contacted plant manager Harold Willett and offered any assistance the port authority can provide and referred further questions to Willett, who she said told her “no one here is losing a job.”

When contacted by The Business Journal, Willett said just 16 workers are employed at the Wellsville location. “We were told not to worry about anything here in the Northeast [division], that the Northeast is not going anywhere,” he said. “We all got a letter in the mail but were told not to worry about it. None of us know what’s going on.”

Willett said there was nothing more he could say until a statement was forthcoming from the corporation, which, he noted, has facilities “all over the United States.”

Mayor Murray, however, said she has been told the plant is closing this summer.

Murray said that after receiving the WARN letter she contacted Gurnsey to ask if the plant is closing and was advised Aug. 31 is its last work day, with layoffs of employees beginning immediately.

Murray said she questioned Gurnsey about her letter stating 31 employees are targeted for layoff at the Wellsville site because she did not think the village receives income tax from that many employees. She reported being told the number includes field representatives associated with the plant.

During their discussion, Gurney cited the oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia as the reasoning behind the plant closing, Murray said.

Anchor Drilling began operations in 2012 at the Intermodal Facility. It produces drilling fluids used in oil and gas exploration. It has a lease agreement with the port authority for tank storage, according to Traina.

Pictured at top: Image posted at AnchorUSA.com.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.