Aluminum diecaster J.L. French Automotive Casting is laying off nearly 500 workers at its plants in Sheboygan, WI, and Glasgow, KY, citing “the unforeseen rapid decline of orders” for its decision to make permanent an extended holiday shutdown. French designs and manufactures aluminum diecastings for various automotive components. It has two plants in Sheboygan and one in Glasgow, and another in Ansola, Spain. The company plans to reduce its production schedule from three to two shifts by mid February. It has filed reports of the planned downsizing with state employment bureaus in Wisconsin and Kentucky. In Sheboygan, 299 jobs will be eliminated; in Glasgow, the number is 180. “The speed with which our customers have been reducing their own production expectations has been surprising,” explained v.p.-human resources Tim Kellner in a company statement. “Our orders are directly connected to the ‘vehicle build’ schedules of domestic automakers,” Kellner continued. “Their recent projections of a 28% reduction in 2009 vehicle production off of a level that was already below 2007 levels causes a large ripple effect to suppliers like J.L. French. We can’t bring people back to work like we had planned, and we have to change our manufacturing structure.” As recently as mid 2007, J.L. French was planning a capacity expansion in Sheboygan to increase its output of high-pressure diecastings. The $16-million project earned a $1.6-million loan from Wisconsin to support job creation. Prior to that J.L. French had reportedly invested $28 million in its Sheboygan diecasting and scrap-processing plants since 2006. In 2006, J.L. French carried out a pre-packaged bankruptcy reorganization in order to restructure its debt.