Job fair planned as filaments firm closes

MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Department of Labor will hold a job fair at the Middlebury American Legion on Boardman Street on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to help 62 Monahan Filaments workers who will become unemployed as of this Friday, Nov. 13.
Michelle Thompson of the labor department’s Middlebury office said late last week that around a dozen education organizations, benefits providers and prospective employers — including Goodrich Corp. and Northlands Job Corps — have agreed to attend the job fair, which is open to anyone seeking work. She said the roster of attendees could well expand by the day of the fair.
The Department of Labor organized the fair with Monahan Filaments in mind. The Illinois-based company bought the former Specialty Filaments business in Middlebury in January of 2007 for $3.125 million, thanks in part to $758,806 in financial incentives awarded by the Vermont Economic Progress Council. The plant cranked back into motion producing bristles for brushes, brooms and other products. It had a workforce of 140 in 2008.
But orders for its products dwindled due to growing competition in the global marketplace, officials said. Monahan Filaments laid off 54 workers in April. Company officials announced in September that the plant would close on Nov. 13.
Mark Manifore, Monahan’s vice president of manufacturing, said workers were given a small severance package last week. He declined to share details of the severance plan, which he said consisted of a flat sum supplemented by an additional amount based on years of service.
He said he feels bad for the affected workers, and added the decision to close was not one that company officials took lightly.
“This is the last thing a company wants to do — shut down a manufacturing facility,” Manifore said.
But in the end, he said there was no other choice.
“Overall, we’re going through the same rough patch in the economy the rest of the country is going through,” Manifore said of the company’s decision to close.
“We couldn’t sell stuff at a loss forever.”
Monahan Filaments will continue to operate its smaller (12 employees) manufacturing facility in Arcola, Ill. He said the company has not yet sorted out what will be done with its Middlebury property.

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