Manchester Metals closes

Macnchester Metals closed its doors after the first shirt on Wednesday, April 25.Photo By David Fenker

In an abrupt end to a 107-year legacy, Manchester Metals shut its doors before second shift Wednesday, April 25.

According to Manchester Metals employees, there was no warning, no notice whatsoever, before management hired an off-duty police officer to turn away second shift employees and inform them that the foundry closed.

Neither Manchester Metals administrators nor representatives from parent company United Stars returned repeated requests for comment before deadline.

A man who declined to identify himself at the foundry informed the News-Journal that there would be no comment “until the company is ready.”

Town and county officials indicated that the closure is permanent.

Grow Wabash County President/CEO Keith Gillenwater said via text message that Manchester Metals let 88 employees go Wednesday, April 25, and kept around 10 on for “the next few weeks.” Gillenwater also said that he was told that Manchester Metals officials are talking to potential buyers for the facility.

According to Gillenwater, the foundry is not in violation of the 1988 WARN Act, which in part requires companies to notify workers of upcoming closures, “because they're under 100 employees.”

“That was my reading of it, at least,” he said. “I asked that question last week when I talked to their HR person, and they [said], 'Well, we're not required by law.'”

The act also includes an exception for unforeseen business circumstances, such as sudden financial difficulties due to cancelled orders.

Manchester Metals employees said that a major contract was canceled shortly before the closure, but the News-Journal has not been able to confirm that with foundry officials.

As of Monday, April 30, Gillenwater's inquiries regarding the status of the company had not been answered.

“Our focus right now is fully on trying to help the affected workforce get back into another position,” he said.

“The tack I'm taking is, if United Stars reaches out and they want to try to reopen or see what they can do with their facility, we're certainly standing by to assist them, but our focus right now is on helping the affected workers. … helping them get back getting a paycheck and those kinds of things, because those were circumstances that they didn't have any effect on, they didn't have any choice in the matter.”

According to Manchester Metals employee Timothy Jackson, the company told employees earlier this month that their jobs were safe.

“They came in about a month, month and a half ago, telling us that corporate wanted to address the issues that everybody was going around saying it was shutting down,” Jackson, who worked at the foundry for two years, said. “They told us that we can be secured that the company's not shutting down.”

Then, just before the end of his shift Wednesday, April 25, Jackson said a coworker told him only the grind shop would come in until the first of May.

“He comes up to me; he's like, 'Well, we're shutting down til the first of the month to give the grinders some time to catch up, because we had about $2,500 worth of parts that needed to be ground.' Well, OK,” Jackson said. “Then, three o'clock I found out that they had a meeting, and they shut the doors without telling us anything about it.


“Second shift showed up, and they had a cop in the parking lot telling them that they no longer have a job, doors are shut down permanently.”

Cody Brockhaus, who was working as a temporary employee when Manchester Metals closed, shared a similar story.

“We walked in yesterday before work no warning nothing we were told they were filling bankruptcy and that we were outta jobs,” Brockhaus said in a Facebook message. “[Two] weeks ago they said we were good ...”

“Most of us are felons on probation fres[h] out trying to better themselves and they take our jobs that's [our] lives they messing with.”

Jackson said that representatives from United Stars were at the foundry throughout the previous week.

“I saw them once I was getting ready to clock out at [11 a.m. Wednesday, April 25],” he said, “all standing out in the parking lot, and none of their supervisors ever even acknowledged that we was closing doors.

“They just sent us all home at 11, and said that the only people that's going to be working until the first of the month is the grinders, then 3 comes around and they said that it's closed down permanently. No grinders, no nothing.”

Jackson expressed concern about the future.

“It's going to be a struggle, I'll tell you that,” he said. “We got our paycheck this morning, but I don't know if we got any of our vacation time calculated in that. They didn't even give us no heads up about shutting the doors.

“… No 'Hey, we'll give everybody a chance to come in, get their stuff that they didn't get out of their lockers,' nothing like that.”

He continued, “We still have our work attire, we have clothes that we left in our lockers, and they never even told us nothing.

As of April 30, North Manchester Town Manager Adam Penrod had not heard from Manchester Metals or United Stars officials, and said that he did not anticipate any announcement from them.

However, he and Gillenwater, along with representatives from Northeast Indiana Works, put together a meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 2, to help displaced Manchester Metals employees.

“We wanted to get in touch with those employees who were let go as soon as possible, because that meeting should have been held before the company closing,” Penrod said. “... We're trying to get that as quick as possible to get them some help.”
He said they used social media and radio announcements to try to notify employees, noting that the meeting organizers did not have access to a list of affected employees.

At the meeting, WorkOne Northeast representatives were expected to offer information job searching, career counseling, education and training opportunities, and unemployment insurance, according to a press release from Northeast Indiana Works.

The release also invited companies with open positions to send representatives.

“Anytime you lose any business, whether it's two employees or 100 employees, it impacts the families involved,” Penrod said. “This type of magnitude of a company closing will definitely hurt a lot of families, but I do think that the town working with things like the meeting we have on Wednesday, just to help pick those people and their families back up and trying to give them a new start, is key to not having it be too detrimental to the community.

“I think there's going to be a silver lining at some point, and I'm hoping for another business to come in there and open back up and we'll gain our jobs back. Time will tell.”

Penrod also commented on the $3.83 million tax abatement the town granted Manchester Metals Dec. 7, 2016.
“That was for a future project that they withdrew from,” he said. “... they had gotten the abatement and got approval, but then they withdrew the project.”

Additionally, Penrod confirmed that off-duty North Manchester Police Department officers are providing security for Manchester Metals.

“These are officers in their off-duty hours,” he said. “They can go out and provide a separate service that [the company pays directly to the officers]. The town doesn't ever receive or pass through or anything like that with that money.”
He noted that churches, the schools and other organizations also employ off-duty officers this way.
“These are individuals who are employees of the town who are providing [a service],” he added. “It is not a service that the town offers out.”

Posted on 2018 May 01