Eastman reducing workforce without losing $30M in job-creation incentives

Kingsport-based Eastman Chemical Co. may be trying to reduce its workforce, but that doesn’t jeopardize a $30 million incentives package provided to the company two years ago for building an new and almost complete “global corporate business center,” reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Eastman told the Times-News last Wednesday the company would offer voluntary separation to employees amid short-term challenges the company was facing due to slow global economic growth.

…As part of the project (announced two years ago), Eastman pledged to invest $1.6 billion in its Kingsport site and add 300 new jobs to its 6,000-plus workforce in Northeast Tennessee… In total, the state signed off on $30 million in economic incentives toward the project.

…“Eastman is fully in compliance with their grant (contract),” said Clint Brewer, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “They have a number of years to complete the job creation, and they are well within the grant period to make up the jobs.”

Eastman Chairman and CEO Mark Costa told employees during a global town hall-style meeting last Tuesday that the company expects to reduce non-operations labor by up to 5 percent worldwide — which is about 300-350 employees. The company’s worldwide workforce is about 15,000.

“We expect to manage this primarily with a targeted voluntary separation program, not filling some open positions, and by leveraging normal attrition and performance management,” Eastman spokeswoman Tracy Kilgore said in an email the following day.

Kilgore, in a follow-up email, said the near-term challenges faced by Eastman are not a reflection of the strength of its growth strategy.

“We will continue to invest in growth even as we navigate through these challenges,” she promised. “This means that we will continue hiring, driving innovation, investing in our sites and supporting our communities. We will continue to meet the multi-year commitments we made through Project Inspire, including new job creation. The actions that we are taking do not impact this.”