Progress Plastics closes in Bellevue

BELLEVUE Another day, another local business closes. The Bellevue branch of
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Another day, another local business closes.

The Bellevue branch of Progress Plastics is shutting its doors after about 40 years in the community. The business appears to be another casualty of the weak U.S. economy.

"We are closing this facility," said human resources director Kathy Dick, refusing further comment.

Progress Plastics, 420 Monroe St., is located across the street from where Armstrong Air once made air conditioner parts. Armstrong closed up shop more than two years ago, resulting in 400 job losses. It was the beginning of tough times in Bellevue.

Mayor David Kile said Progress Plastics did business for Whirlpool Corp., making plastic lid latches and other items. Progress Plastics ran two plants -- the Bellevue operation and another in Tiffin. Kile said the company is consolidating.

"They have another facility," he said. "They lost one of their contracts, so now they are going to downsize to the one place."

The contract Progress Plastics lost was with Whirlpool, said Russ Panas, economic development director of Bellevue Development Corp. The company's loss, however, appears to be Wilbert Plastic Services' gain.

"A lot of the jobs Progress had are still staying in town. They are just moving to another manufacturer," Panas said. "From what I know, a lot of their Whirlpool work went to Wilbert."

Management at Wilbert and Progress Plastics did not return calls Friday.

Jill Saletta, Whirlpool's spokeswoman, said Whirlpool is taking its business to other suppliers.

"About four to five months ago, leaders from Whirlpool Corp. together with the owner of Progress Plastics met and, for a variety of reasons, decided to part ways. Together they have created a plan of action to move production of items made by Progress Plastics to other suppliers. And today we're in the midst of what continues to be an orderly transition," Saletta said, reading from a prepared statement.

Panas said Bellevue officials are doing everything they can to prevent more businesses from going under.

"We're working to try and make sure we keep what we have," he said.

Despite recent bad news, all is not grim in Bellevue. Three new businesses have opened in the city recently.

Pam DeBlase opened The Button Box -- offering thousands of antique buttons for sale -- earlier this month. Opening for business this weekend is the Woodshed Steakhouse. Visitors who had a sneak peek of the restaurant and sports bar on Thursday night gave it rave reviews.

And the Golden Acorn -- a gift shop run by Elizabeth Kile -- moved from Milan to 106 S. West St. in Bellevue in August.

The Golden Acorn sells Christmas ornaments, stationary, baby items, jewelry, desk accessories and other goods.

"Business is good," Elizabeth Kile said. "We're happy with it."

Mayor Kile said he believes things are not as bad as they seem and the tough times can't last forever.