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Plant closure puts nearly 400 people out of work in Elm City

Posted October 23, 2008
Updated October 24, 2008

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— The closing of the IWCO Direct plant has left nearly 400 workers in Wilson County unemployed.

IWCO Direct, 6030 US Hwy 301, prints and ships direct-mail advertisements. Officials told employees Thursday morning that the plant would be closing immediately.

Company officials said the credit crunch around the country led to fewer credit card advertisements to mail out. The plant's equipment and operations are being moved to the company's headquarters in Chanhassen, Minn.

With a population of 1,500, the loss of 380 jobs will affect the small town’s economy.

“Something was wrong. I knew something was wrong,” former employee Herman Sanders said.

Sanders said he and his 379 co-workers learned about the plant's closing during a morning staff meeting.

“I think they were surprised. I think most of them thought maybe it would be a layoff. I don't think most of them thought that it was going to shut down,” Sanders said.

Sanders planned to retire in February, so he says he will be okay. However, that is not the case for many of his co-workers who must find work in a town with few jobs.

“Where do they go from here? That's the part that bothers me, where do they go from here. There are no jobs,” Sanders said.

“I think it is a big shock,” former employee Jim Boykin said.

Boykin worked at the plant back in the early 1970's. Like many people in Elm City, he says the town will not be the same without it.

“That plant's been here 30-plus years, with really, no interruption. There's been different owners, but there's really been no interruption in employment,” Boykin said.

Elm City joins communities across the country struggling to keep jobs.

“There's so many of them. I was seeing the news, how many thousands and thousands of jobs are being lost,” Elm City resident Susan Ruddon said.

A “skeleton crew” will finish up a “couple of projects,” company spokesperson Deborah Haskel said.

“It hurt a lot of people. I mean, I felt bad for a lot of people, especially my brother. I have a brother who works out there. So I felt kind of bad for him, and I feel bad for the younger people,” Sanders said.

Elm City faced loss of jobs in 2006 when Cox Target Media said it would close the plant as part of its Valpak operation. Some 440 people worked there at the time. That October, IWCO said it would purchase the facility, retain most of the extant work force and invest $18.9 million in upgrades over three years. It got $375,000 in incentives from the state and announced plans to add 98 jobs.

In a statement Thursday on the about-face, IWCO Chief Executive Officer Jim Andersen the company needed to act “aggressively” due to the economic environment.

“These are difficult actions we must take to aggressively and pre-emptively react to the industry-wide decline in volume,” he said.

Laid-off IWCO Direct employees will receive two months pay and benefits.


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  • patty002 Oct 24, 2008

    BTW: This plant is only a few miles from where I live and this is such a shame for that many people to be without a job. As I said in my previous comment, there will more of this, if Obama is elected President. Wait and see!!!

  • blahh Oct 24, 2008

    Everybody better be very thankful if you have a good job these days. Times have become hard and I hope things will get better within time. PLEASE DO NOT VOTE OBAMA! If you plan on voting for him you better OPEN your eyes!!!

  • patty002 Oct 24, 2008

    This is just (1) example of what's to come. This country is in a "mess" and I can't (for the life of me) understand how so many red-blooded Americans can't see what Obama is up to. I've heard an old saying and I'm sure most of you have heard it to:"You get what you ask for". If the majority of Americans elect Obama, then none of you should be surprised or upset when
    everything starts going in the opposite direction than you expected. My prayer is that God will have mercy on us all and I have the assurance that He will protect those that have accepted Him as their Savior.
    I have to agree with b4Jesus2, God will heal our nation, but we have to do our part and turn from our wicked (evil) ways and seek His face and put our trust in Him, not man.
    May God bless each person that goes to vote and I pray that you ask God for his guidance, as you vote. Our nation is divided and only God can unite it again, Obama can't do it and McCain can't do it.

  • egh Oct 24, 2008

    You are so right b4jesus2.

  • Funky Neighbor LEE Oct 24, 2008

    Big hit for such a small town and from a business that's been there such a long time. Wishing you the best.

  • b4jesus2 Oct 24, 2008

    I wondering if places of employment will continue this trend because of what Obama said he would do if new jobs are created ...they will giveplaces of business money for each new person hired. When he said this I said we would see more people losing their job now so they can be hired back if he becomes president. One more thing I know President Bush is getting blamed for a lot of things he did while president...one being the economy....is he at fault for rest of the world's economy problem too....If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 This is what will help our country....no politician can!!!!!!

  • whatelseisnew Oct 24, 2008

    It also has not helped that tax policy and State borrowing in North Carolina has gotten out of hand. We need to turn out all the long term incumbents at the State and Federal levels and try to get some people in there that understand low taxes and low debt our the right policies.

  • BULLDOZER Oct 24, 2008

    These plant closing are just a glimpse of what the economy will really start doing if Sen. Obama becomes President Obama. Businesses large and small are terrified of what the liberal white house and congress will do to our income. A lot of large manufacturing companies will move out of the country if Sen. Obama has his way. Please do not vote for this guy, he will destroy your way of life.