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Fleetwood closes plant

November 30, 1999|By TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT ? Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. abruptly closed its travel trailer manufacturing plant near Williamsport Friday because of lagging sales, affecting 253 employees.

Some employees will work at the plant until current orders are processed, but Friday was the last day for the majority of workers, Lyle Larkin, vice president and treasurer of the Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood Enterprises, said Friday. He expects the buildout of existing orders to take a few weeks.

Larkin said he didn't think employees were given advance warning of the shutdown, but that a closure was looming.

"It's probably been coming for quite some period of time," Larkin said.

Fleetwood said a slowdown in the travel trailer market was a factor in the closing.

"Everyone at Fleetwood regrets that we have had to seek such a painful course of action, but it is necessary to regain consistent profitability in a very competitive market," Paul Eskritt, executive vice president of Fleetwood's RV Group, said in a statement.

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The Williamsport plant at 10233 Governor Lane Blvd., called Fleetwood Travel Trailers Inc. of Maryland, produced Prowler, Wilderness and Terry travel trailers.

Fleetwood on Friday also closed travel trailer plants in Rialto, Calif., and Longview, Texas.

The company closed its travel trailer plant in Hancock in 2005, affecting about 300 employees.

Five travel trailer plants will remain open, Larkin said.

The Williamsport plant's employees will be paid for 60 days, in compliance with labor regulations, Larkin said.

Washington County elected and economic development officials on Friday expressed surprise over the news of Fleetwood closing.

Commissioners President John F. Barr and Timothy Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said they weren't aware of the closing until told by a reporter.

Troxell said he just spoke with Fleetwood officials last week, and helped them place a new sales trailer on the site.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Troxell said. "Unfortunately, that's got to be tough on (the employees)."

"It's definitely going to have some impact" Barr said.

Troxell and Barr said they hope the affected employees will be able to find jobs in Washington County. Barr said Fleetwood employees are known to be quality workers.

"I would have thought a lot of the contractors in the area still looking for good, quality people," Barr said. "My personal opinion is they would probably be absorbed into the work force pretty quickly."

Fleetwood announced in a press release Feb. 1 that preliminary third-quarter revenue dropped to $439 million from $584 million during the same quarter last year, a 25 percent decrease.

Travel trailer sales dropped 51 percent, from $169 million to $82 million, during the same time period, according to the release. Much of the $169 million in sales the previous year were Federal Emergency Management Agency purchases needed after Hurricane Katrina, according to the release.

Revenue for the first nine months of the current fiscal year were $1.5 billion, down from $1.83 billion the prior year, according to the release.

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