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Martinsburg plant will shut down for a month

February 12, 2001|By JULIE E. GREENE

Martinsburg plant will shut down for a month



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The World Kitchen manufacturing plant, formerly Corning Consumer Products Co., will shut down earlier than usual this year in the face of escalating natural gas prices and slow Christmas sales, a company official said Monday.

The plant south of Martinsburg, which employs 280 people, usually shuts down for four-week stretches in July and in late December/early January, said Human Resources Manager Paul Maczuzak.

At this point, company officials don't expect the workers to be laid off for any more time than they would be in a typical year, Maczuzak said.

Whether the plant shuts down in the summer depends on several variables, including sales expectations for the holiday season.

"Our expectation is that we'll make the same number of pieces" this year, Maczuzak said.

Instead of shutting down in the summer, the plant will close at midnight Saturday to ease natural gas costs cutting into the company's bottom line, he said. The plant will reopen on March 19.

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Maczuzak would not provide any figures detailing how much natural gas the plant uses to melt glass for its glass and ceramic cookware or how much gas prices were costing the company.

The plant on U.S. 11 makes cookware under the names Corningware and Visions and makes cups for Corelle's tableware line.

Workers were notified of the early shutdown at the end of January. They returned from the winter shutdown on Jan. 8, Maczuzak said.

Generally, employees file for unemployment during plant shutdowns, Maczuzak said. Most workers do not exercise their option to take paid vacation during such shutdowns, he said.

"We are a big energy consumer and natural gas costs are definitely hurting us," Maczuzak said.

The price the company pays at the wellhead for natural gas has almost doubled since November, Maczuzak said.

The current price for natural gas is $6.04 per decatherm, or 1 million BTUs, according to the national clearinghouse in Henry Hub, La., said Shenandoah Gas spokesman Thomas Henschen. Shenandoah does not supply gas to World Kitchen.

The price a year ago was $2.65 per decatherm, Henschen said.

World Kitchen officials expect energy prices to come down as the heating season ends, Maczuzak said.

Another reason it makes sense to shut down the plant now is because the company has more inventory now than it normally would because Christmas sales were slow, Maczuzak said.

Maczuzak said the company's distribution center in Greencastle, Pa., will not shut down now.

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