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Christopher Tomlinson/The Daily Sentinel

EcoGen Labs produces hemp at the old Grand Junction Steel building in January. EcoGen is laying off 101 employees at its eight locations.

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic as well as regulations imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, EcoGen Laboratories are in the process of laying off 101 employees at its eight locations on the Western Slope.

Locations include six in Grand Junction, one in Mack and one in Olathe. The company made the announcement to the Colorado Department of Labor. Employees were informed before the announcement was sent. The layoffs began June 17 and are expected to be completed by July 1.

According to the listing on the Department of Labor’s WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) listings, the company’s layoffs are categorized as “Mass Layoff – Permanent.”

In a statement, EcoGen claimed its short timeframe for making employees aware of coming layoffs was a result of the economic toll of the coronavirus only recently showing itself to the company. Additionally, the company said FDA regulations recently became more clear, painting a bleak picture for the company’s near future.

This isn’t EcoGen’s first round of layoffs as a result of COVID-19, although it is by far the biggest. EcoGen laid off eight full-time and six part-time employees March 23, six full-time and six part-time employees May 1, four full-time and four part-time employees May 20, and four full-time and five part-time employees May 26.

EcoGen’s employment increased to well over 200 earlier this year, especially after the boost of its development of a 20-acre headquarters building in Grand Junction in order to become a hub for hemp-derived CBD processing. Since then, the company’s employment has decreased by at least 50%.

“It’s definitely something that we never want to see happen,” said Grand Junction Economic Partnership Deputy Director Steve Jozefczyk. “When it does, though, the best thing we can do is try to find a way for those displaced employees to get jobs with other companies that might be hiring in the area. Connecting them to the (Mesa County) Workforce Center would be the first step in that.”

This is the third Western Slope company that has listed permanent layoff intentions with the Colorado Department of Labor this year. Earlier this year, Russell Stover candy factory in Montrose listed 217 employees were laid off. In March, Startek announced that it was closing its Grand Junction location and laying off 371 workers.