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Mood glum at Rayloc plant in Hancock

Town residents predict closing will cause ripple effect in community

Town residents predict closing will cause ripple effect in community

January 16, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HANCOCK ? The mood was glum Wednesday at the Rayloc plant in Hancock as workers returned for the first of many numbered days after Tuesday's announcement that the plant will cease production March 17 and lay off about 260 workers.

In a town that has weathered the closing of two other major factories in the past 14 years, many said they had sensed the jobs provided by Rayloc would not be around much longer.

"Everybody was kind of expecting it, I think," said Dennis Doak, a disassembly worker from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who has been with Rayloc for 30 years.

Still, the announcement was troubling news, especially for young workers whose families depend on their wages to get by.

"It'll be hard to replace the money," Doak said.

After the layoffs were announced Tuesday, some workers were in tears, said Roger Helmick, who works on starters at Rayloc.

"It was hard on 'em," he said.

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Helmick, 63, said he plans to get by on unemployment benefits and begin collecting Social Security, but he knows many other workers who will need to find new jobs where none seem to exist.

Volunteer Fire Co. likely to be affected

Layoffs are nothing new for Helmick, who worked for Fairview Orchards in Hancock for 16 years before it closed in the 1980s, he said. His wife, Peggy Helmick, worked for Fleetwood Travel Trailers until it closed in 2005.

"What's going to hurt most is the health insurance," Peggy Helmick said.

At the Hancock Volunteer Fire Co., leaders were planning to meet Sunday to discuss how to maintain enough weekday volunteers after Rayloc closes, Deputy Chief Stephen Barnhart said. Dispatchers call Rayloc directly when they hear of weekday emergencies and Rayloc allows a crew of five volunteer firefighters to leave work to respond, Barnhart said.

On the town's main street, where about a dozen storefronts sit empty in the span of a few blocks, residents and business owners worried about the impact the closure would have on the local economy.

"Hancock's almost a ghost town, now," said Lynn Douglas, manager of the NAPA auto parts store at 53 E. Main St.

For the NAPA store, Rayloc's closure will mean getting parts shipped overnight that could once be picked up the same day, Douglas said. Still, as a franchise store, it isn't as vulnerable to changes in the local economy as 'mom and pop' stores, which already are dying out in Hancock, he said.

Dave McMullen, 51, a lifelong Hancock resident, said after the town's previous layoffs, he noticed crime increase and businesses move out of town.

"Now, everyone you talk to who is thinking about opening a business says there's not enough money in this neighborhood to even think about it," McMullen said. "You'll see a business come in, then it will be there for a year, if even that, and they'll say they weren't making any money; they were going into debt."

McMullen, whose brother has worked at Rayloc since it opened, said he worried there would be no incentive for young people to stay in Hancock after they graduate from high school.

"It leaves kind of an empty space," he said.

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