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VT Industries to close Indiana plant, move work to new Hagerstown facility

February 18, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

A VT Industries Inc. production facility set to open this summer in Hagerstown will replace the company's Fine Laminate Countertop plant in Shelbyville, Ind., company officials announced Friday.

The company will close the Shelbyville plant and move the work to Hagerstown, which is better positioned to serve its customer base, said Trisha Schmitt, the company's vice president for corporate marketing.

The Hagerstown plant at 101 Western Maryland Parkway is expected to open in July and will employ between 70 and 75 workers, Schmitt said.

Many of those are likely to be new hires, she said.

"Our employees in Indiana have the option, many of them, to transfer, but we don't believe we'll be getting a ton to transfer," Schmitt said.

The company has already begun interviewing prospective hires in Hagerstown, she said.

The openings include production jobs, clerical work and managerial positions, Schmitt said.

The average wage for jobs at the new plant will be about $14.50 per hour, the company has said.

Headquartered in Hostein, Iowa, VT Industries manufactures laminate countertops, stone surfaces, and architectural wood doors.

The Hagerstown facility will manufacture the company's Fine Laminate Countertop product, a postform countertop with rounded edges sold at major home-improvement chain stores, Schmitt said.

The decision to move production to Hagerstown was primarily based on the high cost of freight and a growing customer base in the Northeast, according to a company news release issued Friday.

The Hagerstown location was also selected based on its potential for future expansions into other products, Schmitt said.

Such expansions would mean additional jobs in Hagerstown, she said.

VT Industries is assisting employees in Shelbyville with future placement and will offer a severance bonus to employees who do not transfer to Hagerstown, but remain with the company to assist during the transition, the release said.

"We are sensitive to the impact this decision will have on our employees, their families, and the local community," Schmitt said in the release. "Throughout this process, we are committed to treating employees fairly and in accordance with our core values."

The company's Hagerstown plant will be in the former Kongsberg Automotive building. Upon announcing plans for a Hagerstown plant in September, the company said it planned to invest about $11 million in the project, of which about $6.5 million was to be in capital improvements.

The Washington County Commissioners then voted to endorse the state's offer of a $150,000 Maryland Economic Assistance Fund loan for the project and to offer a $112,500 conditional loan from the county with similar terms.

Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Friday that the company's decision to relocate its countertop production to Hagerstown was "wonderful news" for the county.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to put some of our unemployed citizens back to work," he said.

Troxell credited Hagerstown's location along major east coast transportation routes as helping attract the company.

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