MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — Manufacturing giant 3M, the fourth-largest Fortune 500 company in the Twin Cities, may be planning layoffs, according to a Bloomberg report citing internal memos.
The Bloomberg article did not specify how many jobs might be at risk, but the news organization said the layoffs may be "part of a broader cost-cutting drive in response to the slowing economy." 3M employs more than 95,000 people, including roughly 10,000 at the company's headquarters in Maplewood.
A spokesperson for 3M provided the same response to KARE 11 as it did to Bloomberg.
"3M is taking decisive actions to position the company for continued growth, while also adjusting to the challenging macroeconomic environment," the company said. "As we prioritize our investments and resources, we will be adjusting on an ongoing basis the roles and responsibilities needed for future growth."
3M has made headlines in recent months for merging its Food Safety division with Neogen Corporation, while also announcing plans to spin off the Health Care division into its own company.
"I think it's part of a larger effort by 3M to rationalize their businesses and business portfolio," Dr. Aseem Kaul, a professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, said in response to the Bloomberg report about possible layoffs. "This is just part of that: 'We have this business, that we need to maybe improve its profitability a little bit now that we've spun off some of these other businesses.'"
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The company also faces two major, unrelated legal issues right now that may impact its future economic outlook. First, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's classification of certain chemicals as "hazardous" could make the company vulnerable to litigation. Also, 3M is facing a slew of lawsuits from military veterans related to its production of earplugs for combat.
Given these legal challenges, the scale of 3M's possible layoffs is hard to predict.
"If it's just about major legal troubles, I wouldn't expect it to be a big number," Kaul said. "But if they're thinking about a larger restructuring, it could be larger than that. It's really hard to say."
The Bloomberg report also did not specify when the layoffs might occur.
In the meantime, 3M is moving forward with the health care spin-off, which could create the potential for a new division headquarters employing thousands of people as its own company.
Peter Frosch, the president and CEO of the Greater MSP partnership, said the new health care company from 3M might be "Fortune 500-scale." It's not clear where the new headquarters would be located.
"It's a major opportunity for our region and state. We all know that 3M has been a cornerstone of our state's economy for a century, and the company's continued success and growth matters to every part of the state," Frosch said. "We believe Minnesota is the best location."
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