The economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic caused an undisclosed number of workers at all five BTD manufacturing locations to be laid off June 17, according to Stephanie Hoff, director of communications for BTD's parent company, Otter Tail Corp.

She emphasized that the layoffs were not a reflection on the workers abilities.

“They are fantastic humans, fantastic employees, really remarkable team members,” she said. “Unfortunately, as with many businesses across the globe, we have had to adjust to address COVID.”

She said the economic slowdown has forced the company to focus on the products that are selling best now. The workplace cuts were made across the five plants and were based on adjusting for products that aren’t selling well. So some plants were affected more than others, based on the products made there, she said.

The layoffs were not done on the spur of the moment, she said. The action was taken “after very lengthy analytics-based research,” she said. “We have to do very strategic planning while COVID-19 unfolds,” she added. ”We had to make very difficult decisions no business wants to make … We did have to outline some long-term recovery plans . . . and part of that was aligning our workforce accordingly.”

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There are no plans to rehire the laid-off workers, but that could change, spending on COVID-19 and its impacts on the economy, she said. ”We can’t predict the long-term impact of COVID-19, so it’s impossible to predict what the future of these positions looks like at BTD,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic started impacting BTD business in mid-March, Hoff said. At that time, the company didn’t know how deep this impact would go, or how long it would last. "Managing through it for months has been challenging, and making these permanent reductions is painful," she said.

COVID-19 is hurting BTD customers and the markets it serves—and Hoff said the business impacts are clear. With all market segments down and customers taking a slow and cautious approach to resuming business, BTD had temporarily reduced production schedules.

Now, as that potential impact has become reality, and as BTD outlined long-term recovery plans, it had to align its workforce, implementing permanent reductions to address projected volume over the next 12 to 18 months. Each BTD site is impacted slightly differently based on location and market demand, Hoff said.

"We appreciate every BTD teammate and their commitments to our customers, our communities, and our company," she added. "We appreciate their understanding of the difficult position our company and industry are in. We can’t say enough about our employees, our communities, and our customers as we work through this challenging time."

At this time, there is no planning or anticipation for another round of cuts.

"We're hoping that . . . from a customer standpoint and our products, that we're seeing what will be the worst that we're going to see," she said. "What's most important to us is that we continue to operate our business safely and effectively."

"BTD is committed to being a critical partner in the community of Detroit Lakes," Hoff said. "This in no way affects that partnership."

The Detroit Lakes-based business operates facilities at five different locations in Minnesota, Illinois and Georgia, and employs more than 1,200 workers, according to information on its website. In 2017, the company reached $200 million in revenue for the first time, according to Tribune archives.

For more information on BTD, call 866-562-3986 or go to btdmfg.com.

Stephanie Hoff is the director of communications for Otter Tail Corporation, the parent company to BTD. (Courtesy photo)
Stephanie Hoff is the director of communications for Otter Tail Corporation, the parent company to BTD. (Courtesy photo)