General Shale Brick layoffs 86 workers

A Tennessee-based brick company will temporarily shut down manufacturing operations at its Chatham County facilities, officials confirmed Wednesday — resulting in the layoff of about 86 workers.

General Shale Brick sent a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice to the North Carolina Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Development on Nov. 10, alerting the state that the company would close the Chatham County locations effective Jan. 15, 2012. According to the WARN notice, the closure of two brick manufacturing facilities and one block manufacturing facility at 300 Brick Plant Road in Moncure is expected to be temporary.

Mark Kinser, vice president of corporate development and marketing with General Shale Brick, said the decision to temporarily cease manufacturing at the Moncure plants stems from a still-struggling economy and a downturn in the housing market.

“It’s kind of the same story we’ve heard the last two or three years with the downturn of the construction industry,” Kinser said. “It’s purely economical.”

Though the Moncure plants’ manufacturing operations will temporarily close, Kinser emphasized distribution operations would continue.

“Our customers in that area need to understand that even though the manufacturing process has shut down, we will have employees there that will continue to serve our customers and distribute products,” Kinser said.

Impacted employees were notified of the closure Nov. 10. The list of positions impacted by the impending layoffs includes a variety of jobs ranging from machine operators to brick graders.

Kinser said the company did not know when exactly the Moncure plants would reopen. When the construction industry, particularly residential construction, picks up again, he said manufacturing operations would resume.

Jennifer Nelson, retention and expansion specialist with the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation, said General Shale temporarily closed its Moncure site previously in September of 2010, affecting about 117 employees. Like the impending closure, Nelson said the 2010 layoffs were related to industry downturn.

“It basically feeds back into construction in the Southeast,” Nelson said. “It’s not back up to where it should be. The last time they idled the plant, they did do some upgrades to the facility. There is no reason I foresee that they won’t open the plant up again.”

Nelson said last time, the facility reopened after about six months. While she did not know how long it would remain closed this time, she expected that it would eventually reopen as sales improve. Although the 86 affected employees may seek work elsewhere, Nelson said in temporary closure situations, the employees who were laid off are usually the first to be contacted when the plant reopens.

“All of the employees that were laid off will be called back to work as the plants start back up,” Kinser said.

A subsidiary of Austria-based Wienerberger AG, General Shale Brick is headquartered in Johnson City, Tenn., and employs about 2,000 people. The company has been in operation since 1928.

Source: The Sanford Herald