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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Officials: RockTenn to close plant
About 100 workers to lose jobs
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Area officials have been notified that the RockTenn plant at 588 Industrial Park Drive (above) will cease operations and terminate all employees on or after Dec. 24. (Bulletin photo)

Friday, October 28, 2011

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

RockTenn Co. has told local and state officials that it plans to permanently close the former Smurfit-Stone Container plant at the Martinsville Industrial Park in Henry County.

One hundred employees will be impacted, several local and state officials said they were told.

Martinsville City Manager Clarence Monday said he received a letter Thursday from William Kuntz, project team leader with RockTenn. The letter says the plant at 588 Industrial Park Drive will cease operations and terminate all employees on or after Dec. 24.

An attachment to the letter lists the affected job classifications and the number of employees in each classification: administration, two; craft worker, five; first/mid-management, six; laborers, 26; operatives, 64; professional, four; and technician, three.

Those numbers add up to 110. The reason for the difference between 100 - the figure given to local officials - and 110 could not be determined Thursday.

Kuntz and George Melvin, area employee relations manager and human resource contact person during the closure, referred all questions to John Stakel, RockTenn vice president-treasurer. Stakel did not return phone calls Thursday.

Monday said he was contacted by another representative of RockTenn earlier this week about the closing. He said he was told the closure does not affect other RockTenn plants. RockTenn also has a plant on Frith Drive in Ridgeway.

Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin, who said he got a phone call about the closure Tuesday from RockTenn's corporate office, said his first concern is the employees. Due to the high unemployment rate, it will be more difficult for them to find other jobs, he said.

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins, who also is executive director of the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board (WIB), said, "Whenever there is a closing, it does have an impact. We do have a strong infrastructure to help employees and their families get assistance right away."

Adkins said that after learning about the closure, "we immediately contacted" the Rapid Response coordinator for the western region of Virginia, Beckie Cox.

Cox then contacted RockTenn officials requesting that Rapid Response meetings be scheduled, first for a management briefing and second, for the employees, according to information from Adkins.

Cox said Melvin indicated he will contact officials when the company is ready for the Rapid Response team to come in.

The Rapid Response program assists dislocated workers.

Cox said the Rapid Response team will include state and local officials, including representatives of the Virginia Employment Commission, the Workforce Investment Act dislocated worker unit, the one-stop work force center and perhaps other partners, depending on the needs expressed by company officials and employees.

For example, people may request information and services on training, medical insurance or medical care available to them, relocation possibilities, other companies hiring or job fairs, and veterans services, she said.

Cox said she is waiting for a response on whether the company will request Trade Act assistance.

If the company requests and receives Trade Act assistance, it could help with such things as training, relocation and re-employment, Cox said.

Adkins said that even if the company doesn't request Trade Act assistance, employees can request it. Typically the Virginia Workforce Center would seek Trade Act status on their behalf, she said.

Adkins said she toured the plant once, and it makes cardboard packaging.

According to the company website, RockTenn manufactures corrugated and consumer packaging and recycling solutions, with annualized net sales of approximately $10 billion. RockTenn employs about 26,000 people and operates more than 245 facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and China, the website said.

In late January, RockTenn Co. and Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. announced that the boards of directors of both companies had approved a "definitive agreement under which Smurfit-Stone will become a wholly owned subsidiary of RockTenn," according to a news release.

That agreement was approved by shareholders of both companies in late May, a release states.


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