American Growler Closing Robbins Plant
Robbins has been hit again with yet another plant closing.
American Growler is shutting down all production, and last week began sending layoff notices to employees.
“Growler is closing Oct. 26,” Mayor Lonnie English told the Town Board at the close of Thursday’s meeting. “Their military contracts are on hold.”
Production will soon halt on the Growler vehicle the plant builds for the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Our contract with General Dynamics and the Marine Corps is ending,” said Growler’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Crisp in a Friday morning telephone interview. “We have given all the employees notice that unless we get a contract of some kind, we will have to lay off the vast majority.”
About 50 Robbins area residents are losing their jobs next month.
This isn’t the only business affected. A looming deadline in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that was supposed to force Congress to reach a deficit-reducing deal hits at the end of the year. Without new cuts, the mandated “sequester” could mean $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts split half-and-half between defense and non-defense.
“Right now everything is being held up because of this threat of sequestration,” Crisp said. “The sequestration caused a huge delay in government procurement. The administration has not submitted detailed plans required by the Congress showing what will be cut. Right now, procurement people are saying they can’t place any contracts because they don’t know what will be cut.”
While the company’s other plant — a smaller facility in Star — remains open, few of the Robbins workers can go to work there. They are barred by federal law from employment there.
“Right now we are hit with a double whammy,” Crisp said. “Robbins doesn’t have HUBZone status.”
A Small Business Administration (SBA) program, HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zones) gives federal contract preference to small businesses in areas that qualify — in part by employing staff who live in their HUBZone. Moore County, with its prosperous Sandhills section to the south, cannot qualify. Robbins meets all the criteria, but must wait for data from the 2010 Census before it can apply.
“Supposedly data will be out in November,” Crisp said. “Once the data is out, the SBA has some time to evaluate the data and decide whether Robbins can get a metropolitan HUBZone status. My guess is you are looking at 2013 before anything meaningful can take place. My guess is nothing is going to happen in November.”
Crisp said the SBA rules actually create delays in filling some military needs, because Growler is prevented from moving any work to Robbins from Star.
“We had a contract in Montgomery County to build 840 trailers for the Navy, but the work had to be done in a HUBZone,” Crisp said. “If Robbins were included, we could transfer a lot of that work over here. The Navy would like us to accelerate deliveries, but we can’t do that from Star. We can’t even transfer employees from Robbins.”
American Growler is laying off workers in Robbins that it may not offer jobs in Star — as much as Crisp would like to hire them there.
“You have to submit documented proof of where your employees live, copies of driver’s licenses or utility bills, print out a map showing that employee lives in the HUBZone,” he said. “Thirty-five percent have to live in the zone. It has a huge effect on our garnering new business, long term. Short term, it prevents us keeping workers.
“We gave all the employees a letter about the first of September that we would be mothballing this plant with a skeleton crew,” he said. “We told them that we would give them time off for interviews, help them with resumes, give them letters of recommendation. Several have found other employment. Furthermore, we weren’t going to hand out layoff notices; but, as time progressed, we said we would give every one of them at least a two-week layoff notice individually. The first ones went out this week.”
Other company products are getting hit as well. Crisp said Growler builds a mine vehicle that carries coal workers deep underground. The company had a two-year contract to build the vehicle for Patriot Coal, but the company went bankrupt in July.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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