Updated: 9:36 a.m. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | Posted: 8:39 p.m. Monday, May 14, 2012

Hamilton Fixture closure costs 97 jobs

By Eric Schwartzberg and Ed Richter

Staff Writers

HAMILTON — A long-time Butler County business is scheduled to close the doors of its 320,000 square foot facility sometime next month, resulting in the loss of 97 jobs.

The decision to close Hamilton Fixture, 3550 Symmes Road, was precipitated by its fiscal woes, according to company officials.

“They have, like many other businesses, suffered the impact of a slowdown in the economy,” said Joe Vierling, chief restructuring officer. “The retail fixture industry was especially hard hit.”

Established in 1959, Hamilton Fixture provides fixtures, cabinets, point-of-sale products and retail services for leading national retail chains, brand merchandisers and food service providers.

This is the third largest single site job loss in Hamilton in the past year behind SMART Papers (more than 200) and Mohawk Papers (137).

The company endured “financial battles” over the last several years, Vierling said, but it wasn’t until late last year that officials launched efforts to sell the company.

“We were successful in selling the west coast facilities in Ontario (California in mid-March). Unfortunately, we were not successful here in Hamilton,” Vierling said.

An announcement was made to employees late Wednesday night and Thursday, he said.

City Manager Joshua Smith said he received a call about the company about three months ago from a Mason firm interested in the company’s property.

Jody Gunderson, the city’s economic development director, said “the company had been teetering for some time and had some setbacks the last few years.”

Gunderson said the company had engaged a realtor to sell the property.

He nor Smith could say late Monday afternoon how much the closing of Hamilton Fixture would cost the city in tax revenue. Gunderson said the company has been working with “a very lean workforce” for some time.

The layoffs include 83 workers and 14 management/supervisory positions. The company gave notice last week to Workforce One of Butler County that 12 employees were to be laid off last Friday, with another 70 scheduled to leave by May 25. The remaining 15 employees scheduled to stay on into June to assist with liquidation.

However, Vierling said a firm date for closure has been not yet been finalized and employees might end up staying longer than expected due to production demands.

“We’re in a wind-down phase and we’re continuing to produce orders for our customers,” Vierling said. “There are a number of factors that dictate how fast we get jobs out and occasionally there are delays on the customer side.”

Robert Lansdale, who works in the shipping/assembly department, said employees “were told ‘definitely’ that the company would be closing last week.”

Lansdale, 54, of Middletown, said he’s been working there for the past 14 years.

“I feel dejected, but there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing the work until the very end.”

Lansdale said he’s going to keep looking for another job.

“You can only do the best you can and there ain’t nothing you can do about it,” he said. “Everybody has to get by and there’s always more work somewhere.”

A “cold call” from Hamilton Fixture officials last week made Workforce One aware of the company’s plans but provided no reason for them, according to Stewart Leonard, Workforce One business service representative.

The company was not required to provide a warn notice because such notification is only required from a company with 100 employees or more that lays off 50 percent or more of its workforce.

Workforce One of Butler County is scheduled to hold a rapid response meeting Wednesday on-site for employees and provide a variety of services, including job training, at its transition center in Middletown, according to Adam Jones, Workforce One division director.

“Some companies, they close up shop and they don’t tell anyone, he said. “It seems that they’ve been a little more forthcoming than others as far as saying ‘We really want you to get it in here and see what you can do to help our workforce.’"

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