At an emergency plant meeting Wednesday morning, representatives at Janesville Acoustics told employees the Norwalk location on Industrial Parkway will be closed by year’s end. The shuttered factory will send 270 hourly employees and 26 salaried personnel onto the unemployment lines. Layoffs could come within weeks, as Janesville begins to phase out operations at the Norwalk facility.
The news was an unwelcome surprise to workers and the community. “We are all in shock,” said Casey Martin, union president for local 1422 Workers United.
Norwalk’s Janesville employees earn anywhere from $13.50 an hour up to $18, as well as receiving health benefits. Some positions earn slightly more, Martin said. Most are simply trying to take in the news, and it’s not just about the future of one facility. It’s about Norwalk, too. “The city already does not have a lot of jobs,” Martin said.
Thus far, the soon-to-be unemployed have received no job offers for positions at other Janesville Acoustics plants, Martin said. Union representatives were not approached, either, but Martin said he hopes Janesville management will want to talk to them to see what can be done.
Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan was also stunned by the announcement. Janesville Acoustics president David Cataldi called him at about 7 a.m. Wednesday and told him the plant was moving south. “I asked, ‘What can we do to keep you here?’” Duncan said.
But it was a done deal. Cataldi told him it’s not viable for the company to remain, Duncan said.
“Tears welled up in my eyes,” Duncan said. “I thought of all the families invested in the plant. It’s devastating news.” Duncan said he immediately picked up the phone and called representatives from Gov. John Kasich’s office, as well as other area representatives, asking them to intervene in any way possible. State resource agencies, such as JobsOhio and Team NEO, were contacted to help retain the company.
Janesville Acoustics released a statement saying the move is a response to market pressures, including demand from customers to manufacture in closer proximity to their operations.
The company intends to select a new plant in Kansas, Missouri or Nebraska before the close of 2013. The location will be within reach of the assembly plants of many current Janesville Acoustics customers, the company stated in the release. “We’ve worked around the challenges associated with supplying customers long-distance from Norwalk,” Cataldi stated. “However, given the rising costs of logistics and the benefits of improved flexibility and efficiency that come from working nearby our business partners, we’ve reached a point where proximity has become essential to our continued growth.”
Janesville Acoustics manufactures sound-dampening and thermal insulation for the automotive industry.
The company closed its Republic Street plant in Norwalk about a year ago. In early 2010, the company laid off upwards of 110 employees, although it later rehired some of those workers.