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Monahan Filaments to shutter Middlebury plant; county sheds 69 jobs

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Posted on September 10, 2009 |
By John Flowers



MIDDLEBURY — Citing reduced orders for its bristle products and growing competition, Monahan Filaments executives confirmed on Wednesday they will close the company’s Middlebury plant on Nov. 15, thereby ending employment for 69 full-time workers.

“We don’t have the business to support the facility,” said Brian Crawford, vice president and general manager of Monahan Filaments, which in 2007 bought the former Specialty Filaments business out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“Due primarily to continuing weakness in some of the filament markets it serves, Monahan Filaments is obligated to announce the closing of its plant in Middlebury, Vt., effective Nov. 15,” read a brief press release provided after the Addison Independent’s inquiry into the firm’s future. “While we will continue to serve substantially all of our active customers through our Arcola (Illinois) facility, Brush Fibers, and other strategic partners, the decision has been made to cease operations in Middlebury.”

Company officials cited “market conditions, and the cost of operations in Middlebury,” as the main reasons for the decision.

“As Monahan Filaments competes in the global marketplace, this very difficult strategic decision was made after careful consideration of our ability to offer our loyal customers quality product, on-time deliveries, at competitive prices, while still generating a reasonable level of profitability,” the release stated.

Headquartered in Arcola, Ill., Monahan Filaments paid $3.125 million to purchase Specialty Filaments out of bankruptcy court two-and-a-half years ago. Specialty Filaments ceased operations in the winter of 2007, also for economic reasons, sending 175 people to the unemployment lines.

Monahan officials hoped to resurrect the operation, a plan that received some support through the state of Vermont. The Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC) awarded Monahan $758,806 in financial incentives in its bid to acquire and reopen Specialty Filaments.
Monahan was soon back producing bristles for brushes, brooms and other products. It had a workforce of 140 in 2008.

But the company was unable to sustain orders amid tough competition. Monahan announced that it would lay off 54 workers this past April.

Gary Rich, a union representative who has worked for the company for 11 years, said employees knew something was amiss when Monahan began selling off some of its equipment.

“They have been selling off machines right and left,” Rich said on Wednesday.

At this point, the future of Monahan’s property at 3046 Case St. remains murky.

“I don’t believe it’s on the market for sale or lease, but I believe in time it will be,” Crawford said.

No changes, at this point, are contemplated at Monahan’s plant in Arcola, according to Crawford.

Plans call for company executives to meet with union officials in September to iron out further details of the plant closing, Crawford said.

“It’s unfortunate,” Crawford said of the pending closing. “There are a number of super employees here.”

The closing will hurt the county’s manufacturing economy.

“Any plant closing is a blow to our county,” Robin Scheu, executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corp., said of the news. “We will do whatever we can at our end to make things easier for the employees.”

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