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MasterBrand will close
335 jobs to be lost
MasterBrand Cabinets' plant is a former Henry County shell building that once housed 5-B's Inc. embroidery company. It is in the Patriot Centre industrial park. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Sunday, August 5, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
MasterBrand Cabinets, one of the area’s 10 largest employers, will close Friday, eliminating 335 jobs.
The company announced the closing Friday, citing a “protracted depression” in the kitchen cabinet market, according to Robert Jacobs, executive vice president of human resources for MastserBrand.
The company’s Martinsville facility at 220 Mehler Lane, in the Patriot Center at Beaver Creek industrial park, is one of its four plants in the U.S. that manufacture semi-custom cabinetry mainly for remodeling projects.
“We have seen a little strength in new home construction, but the remodel market is still very soft,” Jacobs said. “We maintained our capacity and our inventory hoping for a more robust recovery,” but that has not occurred.
“After a thorough review of our manufacturing operations, we’ve made the decision to consolidate the production of our semi-custom cabinetry offerings into other U.S. facilities to maximize current production capabilities and geographic advantages,” Greg Stoner, president of the company, said in an emailed statement.
The 335 employees affected by the closing will continue to be paid and receive benefits for 60 days, Jacobs said.
Also, an “out-placement firm has been secured to help affected employees” with job searches, resume preparation or “whatever they need to do to help them transition to something new,” Jacobs said.
The company will be out of the building by the end of September, Deputy Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said.
“We were surprised” to hear the company will close, said Mark Heath, president/CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).
“We heard about the closing only within the last 24 hours,” Heath said. “We have been working closely with MasterBrand, particularly the last couple of months, to help them fill some jobs they had open.”
MasterBrand advertised for additional workers June 13-17 in the Martinsville Bulletin.
Jacobs explained why employees were being sought that recently. An evaluation of the company “has been ongoing, and when you’re in the middle of trying to evaluate what you need to do, you still need to maintain operations” until a decision is reached, he said.
“We looked at our footprint (of company operations)” and arrived at the decision to close the Martinsville facility, he added.
The closing was the best decision for the company, he said. “Unfortunately, it is not the best decision” for employees and the area.
In 2011, MasterBrand paid $30,199 in taxes on real estate that was assessed at $6,565,000 and $98,363.26 on business/personal property that was assessed at $6,646,166, county records showed.
Jacobs said the company has closed seven plants since 2006 as a result of shifting customer demands. He added that the Martinsville facility “is the only plant that we’re announcing the closing of” at this time.
“This is a very fluid market,” he said.
Then-Gov. Mark Warner was present for the company’s announcement in January 2004 that it would buy the former 5-B’s Inc. to produce semi-custom cabinetry. It planned to make a capital investment of more than $20.8 million in improvements, machinery and equipment.
It was given seven years to create a total of 745 jobs with average weekly wages of $497, or an annual $19 million payroll, plus benefits.
In exchange, the company received $750,000 from the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF), $1.25 million from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund (GOF) and a total of $800,000 from Henry County, according to previous reports on its performance agreement.
In January 2010, MasterBrand repaid Henry County a total of $376,594 in state and local incentives for failing to meet the job creation benchmarks outlined in its performance agreement.
County officials returned $109,688 to TROF; $149,906 to the GOF and $117,000 to the county to repay a local cash grant the county made to the company, Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin has said.