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World Kitchen factory to close

April 05, 2001

World Kitchen factory to close



Staff and wire reports


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Local economic development and county officials Thursday tried to be philosophical about the news that a 40-year-old Berkeley County factory that produces Corningware and Visions cookware will close within a year under a corporate restructuring plan.

World Kitchen Inc., owned by WKI Holding Co. Inc. of Elmira, N.Y., will transfer those product lines and the Corelle cup line to another plant by March 2002, company officials said Wednesday.

The Martinsburg factory has about 350 employees.

Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said his agency will work with World Kitchen employees to help them find jobs and remain in the area.

He told the Berkeley County Commissioners at their weekly meeting that some companies don't make it, despite the best efforts of the companies and economic development officials.

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"There will be times when we lose firms," Crawford told the commissioners. "We always work diligently to retain firms."

He vowed to continue seeking other companies.

"We will work hard to get something in there," he said.

Commission President Howard Strauss said the county is blessed with having a variety of companies.

"We have a diversity of businesses so that when we lose one, we have many strong businesses that remain here," Strauss said.

Crawford said Alliance Aircraft continues to plan a move to Berkeley County. He said it is possible the company's engineering and administrative functions could move to Martinsburg, possibly into a section of the vacant Blue Ridge Outlet Center, within 90 days.

"It's looking good," he said of the possibility the company, which plans to build regional jets, would open a plant at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

World Kitchen shut down temporarily in February to cope with rising natural gas prices and slow holiday sales. The factory usually closes for four-week stretches in July and in late December.

David Plume, training and security coordinator, said full production is not set to resume until Monday, so most employees hadn't officially been told of the shutdown.

Faced with large financial losses, the WKI board approved a plan to restructure manufacturing and distribution operations on March 28.

Last year, WKI, which employs about 5,200 worldwide, reported a net loss of $150.1 million, compared to a net loss of $34.5 million in 1999.

The company filed papers this week with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announcing its intention to pull out of West Virginia.

"This was a difficult decision, but a necessary one in order to consolidate our manufacturing footprint and lower production costs," World Kitchen president and CEO Steven Lamb said.

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