Manchester Metals shuts down North Manchester plant abruptly
By Andrew Maciejewski and Mackenzi Klemann for the Wabash Plain Dealer | Indiana Economic Digest
Local officials are deploying rapid response measures to help workers displaced by the unexpected shutdown of Manchester Metals last Wednesday. The company has yet to publicly confirm whether the closure is permanent, but former employees tell the Plain Dealer that rumors of a shutdown circulated for months before managers locked employees out last week.
“They came to us at about 10:50 a.m. (Wednesday) and said … we’re taking off until the 1 of the month. By 3 p.m. we saw on social media where they had shut the doors,” said Timothy Jackson, a former employee who lives in Huntington. “They’ve done a lot of us dirty and not very many employees like it.”
The closure effects nearly 100 employees who say they were not notified of the company’s plans.
Several former employees tell the Plain Dealer that corporate representatives visited the North Manchester plant earlier this year to dispel rumors that Manchester Metals was closing. Employees were then reportedly told contradictory stories about a temporary closure before the foundry’s doors were locked on April 25.
James Burkart, of North Manchester, says he was told to go home early that morning because the plant would be cutting hours back temporarily. But later that afternoon, Burkhart says he received a text notifying him to pack his things and file for unemployment.
Local officials say they were not notified of Manchester Metals’ plans to cease production, either.
A rapid response effort is underway to help displaced workers file for unemployment and search for new career opportunities. A meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 2 at the Manchester Community School Administration Building, 404 W. Fourth Street, North Manchester. There, area employers and representatives from WorkOne Northeast will meet with those impacted by the closure. Meeting organizers are asking employers with job openings to attend.
“It is encouraging to see people working together for the common good of communities,” said North Manchester Town Manager Adam Penrod. “We are optimistic there will be some positive outcomes from this.”
Representatives for Manchester Metals and the foundry’s parent company, United Stars, have not released an official statement and are not answering questions about the closure.
At issue is whether the shutdown is permanent and whether employees were given proper notice. Companies with more than 100 employees are required to provide 60 day’s notice prior to mass layoffs. Manchester Metals had 108 employees when the company filed for tax abatement in November 2016. The company was believed to have employed around 90 workers at last count, according to Penrod.
The foundry was first incorporated in 1911 as the North Manchester Foundry Company, producing metal casting for the Peabody School Furniture Company. In 1935 Ford Meter Box became one of the foundry’s top customers. A majority of the company’s shares were sold to a Chicago-based firm in 1947, and by 1973 the company employed around 200 people, according to the North Manchester Historical Society.
In 2003, the foundry was renamed NMF Real Estate LLC, and was later purchased by the Wisconsin-based company United Stars in 2014.
Representatives for Manchester Metals filed for tax abatement in 2016 after investing $3.8 million to automate part of the plant’s production line. The North Manchester Town Council approved the abatement, which was said to be a long-term investment that would create new jobs. As a result, the company was expected to save more than $40,000 in person property taxes for 2017. But Wabash County Assessor Shelly Schenkel says the company failed to file the proper paperwork and was taxed fully.
United Stars Inc. owns eight manufacturing facilities across Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, according to the company’s website.