HANCOCK — Some "old Fleetwooders" showed up at the former travel trailer plant Thursday, not hoping to get their old jobs back, but of getting new work under the same roof.
State, county and local elected officials Thursday welcomed Evolve Composites to Hancock. Also, on hand were men like Michael McFadden and Greg Unger, who are looking to fill positions that will be created when the company starts making precast lightweight concrete products in January.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Fleetwood plant in Williamsport was bustling, filling orders for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build trailers to house those displaced in Louisiana and Mississippi, recalled McFadden, who worked 20 years for Fleetwood.
The Hancock plant had closed its doors with the loss of more than 300 jobs in 2005, said McFadden, whose last job with the company was supervising 28 people in fiberglass laminating at the Williamsport plant. The Williamsport plant closed in 2007, he said.
"Labor was cheaper in Mexico, and that was the downfall," McFadden said of Fleetwood ceasing trailer manufacturing in Washington County.
"I'm an old Fleetwooder," said Unger, who put in 17 years with the company. "We used to have 25 to 28 trailers a day going out the door."
In August, Mayor Daniel Murphy announced that Evolve and the town had reached an agreement on a seven-year lease for the 110,000-square-foot building. It will be rent-free the first year, but Evolve will pay $2 a square foot the second year.
The deal calls for Evolve to hire at least 60 workers within the first three years, but Chief Executive Officer Martin Bristow said he expects the company to hit that mark much earlier.
That could be good news for people like Unger, out of work for a year, and McFadden, who recently landed a part-time job after three years without work.
"It's stressful. You don't sleep. You worry about bills not being paid," McFadden said.
McFadden's son-in-law, Matthew Glessner, is also hoping to get a job with Evolve.
While Evolve will put a concrete plant in place for the production of lightweight utility pads, Bristow told a group of more than 50 people Thursday that production could include some of the company's line of plastic products as well.
"This is the final piece of the puzzle, to get a plant in the Northeast .... The growth we've had led us to come here," Bristow said at the reception hosted by the town.
Evolve operates plants in Alabama and Florida and was looking to expand its market area to serve customers such as Lowe's, he said.
Modifications to the plant will begin Oct. 1, Bristow said.
Chris Considine, who will be the plant manager, said the average wage for production workers would be in the neighborhood of $12 an hour.
Murphy recounted the loss of London Fog in the 1990s, followed by Fleetwood in 2005, and Rayloc ceasing production in Hancock in 2008. Many of those who lost their jobs lived in neighboring Morgan County, W.Va., and Fulton County, Pa., he said.
When the old, 22-acre Fleetwood property went up for sale a few years ago, businessman Stanley E. Fulton donated the money to the town to buy the site to "put jobs back in Hancock," the mayor said.
The site was renamed the Stanley E. Fulton Industrial Complex in his honor.
The reception drew Washington County Commissioners John F. Barr, Jeff Cline, Ruth Anne Callaham and William B. McKinley, state Del. Leroy E. Myers Jr. and state Sen. George C. Edwards.