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World Kitchen to close March 9

February 20, 2002

World Kitchen to close March 9



By SARAH MULLIN / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


INWOOD, W.Va. - A 467,000-square-foot building that has housed the production of cookware, dinnerware, and glasses for the past 40 years will cease production in three weeks.

The World Kitchen Inc. plant, formally Corning Glass Works, on U.S. 11 south of Inwood, will shut down on March 9, throwing about 300 area residents out of work, Plant Manager Casey Duffy confirmed Tuesday.

"The product lines have become unprofitable," Duffy said.

The plant produces a Corelle line of dinnerware, and Corning and Visions cookware.

Duffy said the severance package offered to employees will include pay and benefits based on each employee's years of service. The plant employs union and salaried workers. There is an on-site employee support center to help the workers make career transitions, he said.

Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said the West Virginia job service has been meeting with employees to help them find new jobs.

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World Kitchen Inc., owned by WKI Holding Co. Inc. of Emira, N.Y., last April announced the company's decision to pull out of West Virginia due to a corporate restructuring program.

Dave Lanzillo, director of corporate relations for World Kitchens, said WKI is the legal entity under which World Kitchen Inc. Operates. WKI, the parent organization, made a transfer of the property's assets valued at about $2.3 million last April.

In January 2000, Corning Consumer Products Company, Ekco Housewares and General Housewares were consolidated into World Kitchen Inc., Lanzillo said.

The products produced at the Berkeley County plant will be produced in the Pennsylvania and New York production plants.

"We still remain very committed to the Corning and Visions product line," Lanzillo said.

The distribution center in Greencastle, Pa., will not be affected by the plant's closing, he said.

Over the past 40 years World Kitchen and former Corning Glass Works have been major employers in the area, Crawford said.

Ten years ago, when the plant was still owned by Corning, there were 600 to 700 employees working there, he said.

Lanzillo said there have been layoffs and hirings throughout the years.

"The plant's production ebbed and flowed with market demand," he said.

"World Kitchen will certainly be missed," Crawford said. "We are hoping we will be able to find a replacement to go in the building."

Corporate Properties Ltd., a Rhode Island real estate consulting firm that specializes in finding new uses for empty industrial properties, is marketing the property.

There have been no offers to buy the plant, said Tony Caner, senior vice president of the firm.

He said it is unlikely the initial hope to put a glass manufacturer in the plant will come to fruition.

The plant and 76 acres have been on the market for two months and is advertised on international real estate Web site, www.loopnet.com, he said.

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