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Hancock plant to close

February 03, 2005|by TARA REILLY and JULIE E. GREENE

tarar@herald-mail.comjulieg@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Fleetwood Travel Trailers of Maryland Inc. has announced the closing of its Hancock plant effective April 1, affecting nearly 300 jobs.

The company's Williamsport plant will remain open, according to a written statement from Fleetwood.

"Our objective is to maximize utilization of the production capacity at the other area plants, which are within a 100-mile radius," according to a written statement from Fleetwood. "We have excellent facilities at both our Williamsport, Maryland, and Somerset, Pennsylvania, plants, both of which could easily be expanded as demand necessitates."

The Hancock plant manufactures and sells travel trailers.

Fleetwood spokeswoman Kathy A. Munson said Wednesday the location of the Hancock plant - which she said is landlocked in a residential area - was a main reason for closing the facility.

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"There isn't any place to expand if we were to do that," Munson said.

She said there's more room at the Williamsport plant, it's a newer facility than the Hancock plant and it has easy access to Interstate 81.

Employees of the Hancock plant were notified of the closing Tuesday morning, according to Fleetwood.

Munson said she wasn't sure whether any of the Hancock employees would be offered jobs at the Williamsport plant. Fleetwood's Hancock plant employs 289 people and the Williamsport plant employs 256 people, she said.

The company said in a written statement that it plans to help employees affected by the closing find other jobs by providing letters of recommendation, contacting the local employment service and giving employees time off to interview for other jobs.

Munson said she wasn't sure what the company's plans were for the Hancock plant building at 35 South St. after it closes. The plant has operated in Hancock since 1969.

Councilman reacts


"The impact on (the town) will be devastating," Hancock Councilman Randy Pittman said Wednesday.

Pittman said many of the employees at the Hancock plant either live in or just outside town limits.

He said he heard the news of the closing when he walked in Town Hall on Tuesday. He didn't expect the plant to close, he said.

"I don't think anybody knew," Pittman said. "Basically, you took it for granted that it was always going to be there."

A woman who answered the phone at the Hancock plant Wednesday morning asked if the call was about the plant closing. She then referred inquiries about the plant closing to the corporate office in Riverside, Calif.

A woman who answered the phone at the Williamsport plant Wednesday morning said corporate officials were meeting at the Williamsport plant at that moment. She did not know if more Hancock workers would be transferred to the Williamsport plant.

On Tuesday, the company advised the state labor department that a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) would be forthcoming, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation spokeswoman Linda Sherman said.

The labor department suggests companies with a certain number of employees at a specific location advise or warn the labor department at least 60 days in advance of significant layoffs or a plant closure, Sherman said.

The labor department then arranges to help the dislocated workers find new jobs or retraining opportunities, Sherman said.

Patrick Baker, state administrator of dislocation services, said he got a fax late Tuesday indicating some Hancock workers might have the option of transferring or being relocated to another plant, but that there definitely will be layoffs.

The Williamsport plant, which primarily had been a service facility, began production in the July 2004 quarter, Fleetwood spokeswoman Amy Coleman wrote in a Jan. 13 e-mail.

The metal unit work was shifted from Hancock to Williamsport, she wrote.

Fleetwood Enterprises stated in a Jan. 27 press release that the company's third quarter preliminary revenues declined 5 percent, from $598 million to $565 million. Sales for the first nine months of fiscal year 2005 improved by 5 percent, the company said.

Manufactured housing sales in the third quarter increased by 18 percent and by 15 percent during the first nine months of fiscal year 2005, but sales of recreational vehicles decreased by 16 percent, motor home sales decreased 15 percent and the sale of towables declined by 19 percent, according to the statement.

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