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Rayloc: A sad day for a good local company

January 17, 2008

It is with great sadness that we note the layoff of 260 workers at the Rayloc auto parts plant in Hancock. Not only did the company provide good-paying jobs for many in the region, but the firm's policies were also the backbone of the town's fire department and rescue squad.

Rayloc allowed employees who were volunteer firefighters or rescue workers to leave the plant when there was a fire or an ambulance call.

In a 1999 profile of the company done for The Herald-Mail's Focus section, Todd Ruppenthal, then a lieutenant with the Hancock Fire Department, praised the company's willingness to let volunteers leave the plant.

"If not for Rayloc the firetrucks wouldn't get out. There would be nobody to fight fires during the day," Ruppenthal said.

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The company's employees have also contributed generously to the annual appeals of the United Way of Washington County.

Rayloc was one of two companies to win the campaign co-chairmans' award in 1997, with its workers increasing their contributions over the previous year by 19 percent.

In 1998, Rayloc was cited for completing a successful employee campaign despite the sudden death of the company's in-house chairman.

In 2004, Rayloc was one of a number of companies cited for a 20 percent increase in employee giving from the previous year.

Rayloc employees also participated in Red Cross blood drives and in collections for needy residents of the Hancock area.

Employees deserve a great deal of credit for these achievements, but in our experience, a company's management can do a great deal to help or harm such efforts. From where we sit, it's clear that Rayloc's top managers were community-minded and supported these endeavors.

What's less clear is why Rayloc's layoff came at this time. The company is a division of Genuine Parts Co., which was No. 245 on the Fortune 500 list of the nation's biggest companies for 2007, returning 11.4 percent to investors during 2006.

In December, Zacks Investment News rated the company's stock as a "hold" despite sluggish performance by automakers and parts suppliers.

In part, what impressed Zacks' analyst was Genuine Parts' plan to diversify "its revenue base to reduce excessive dependence on the automotive replacement market."

Contacted Wednesday for a comment on whether that strategy was a factor in the Rayloc layoff, corporate headquarters did not respond in time to be included here.

In the absence of that, we thank Rayloc and its employees for their many years of support of the community's charities and fire/rescue operations.

As is often the case, the average county resident won't realize what has been lost until Rayloc shuts its doors in March. We urge all who read this to do what they can to help Rayloc's workers through this tough time.

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