Roscoe Steel lays off workers in Billings, Missoula and Casper

Restructuring effort under way
2010-04-06T17:29:00Z Roscoe Steel lays off workers in Billings, Missoula and CasperJAN FALSTAD Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 06, 2010 5:29 pm  • 

Roscoe Cos. announced Tuesday it is laying off approximately 40 employees in Billings to cut costs and return the company to profitability.

Roscoe Steel & Culvert at 1501 S. 30th St. W., was started in 1953 by Bill Roscoe Jr. and two other men who eventually sold out to the Roscoe family.

The layoffs are part of a restructuring effort at Roscoe’s three business units in three cities.

“This is an extremely difficult decision, but an absolutely necessary one if Roscoe is to compete into the future,” said Bill Lundberg, president and chief operating officer.

The total number of workers at the Billings facility was not released. In 2007, the company employed 200 people in Billings, Missoula and Casper. In addition to the Billings layoffs, 10 employees lost their jobs at the Roscoe facility in Missoula, which makes bridges, and two were laid off in Casper, which manufactures culverts.

Yellowstone County Commissioner Jim Reno said he was saddened by the news.

“My heart goes out to the families, first,” Reno said. “And Roscoe Steel was such a bedrock business that I wonder how many other local companies may be impacted or if this is going to be like the Smurfit-Stone plant closure.”

Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. announced last year that it was laying off more than 400 people and closing is fiberboard plant in Frenchtown.

Even the billions of dollars in federal stimulus money didn’t stop the steep decline in orders at Roscoe Steel. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has had a negligible impact on revenue and earnings at Roscoe Steel, Lundberg said.

Three years ago, times were good.

The company was busy fabricating steel trusses for the $42 million Cam-Plex civic center in Gillette, Wyo. Then, the national recession carved deeply into construction projects.

Jim Roscoe joined the family business in 1969 and took over as its top executive in 1986 when gross revenues were $15 million per year. Revenues had tripled by 2007 before the subprime mortgage crisis caused a national real-estate crash and drove the world to the edge of a financial collapse.

By 2005, Jim Roscoe reached outside the family and hired Lundberg from a job at a steel company in Minneapolis as chief operating officer and president. Lundberg instituted just-in-time manufacturing practices at Roscoe Steel.

Jim Roscoe could not be reached for comment. Lundberg reportedly delivered the layoff news to the Billings employees Tuesday.

Last August, American Steel Inc. of Billings broke ground in Lockwood on a new 25,000-square-foot facility. At that time, the company said its business on the West Coast was starting to pick up.

Two years ago, Teton Steel of Montana opened a facility by Roscoe Steel to manufacture rebar.  

Also that year, Berry Y & V Industrial Contracting of Houston opened a fabrication plant at 2450 S. 32nd St. W., along Interstate 90. However, the Billings facility isn’t operating yet because the company is still waiting for a contract to work with the massive oil sands complex in Alberta, according to a company spokeswoman in Houston.

“There are so many sister industries tied into these core industries,” Reno said. “I just hope we’re diversified enough that we can keep or head above water.”

Contact Jan Falstad at jfalstad@billingsgazette.com or 657-1306.

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