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Henry
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« on: January 13, 2005, 08:24:20 AM »

Thursday January 13, 2005

Fonda factory closing in Nov.

BY LEE J. KAHRS
Messenger Staff Writer

ST. ALBANS CITY –– The Solo Cup Company announced Wednesday it will close the Fonda plant here on Lower Newton Street in November, displacing all 168 employees.

The local paper products manufacturing plant is among the oldest, continuously run commercial operations in the city. The plant will close on Nov. 1.

Ronald L. Whaley, president and chief operating officer of Solo Cup Company, which owns the plant, issued a statement Wednesday regarding the closure of the plant.

“We have reached this difficult decision as a result of thorough review of our operations,” Whaley said. “We understand how difficult it is for our employees at the St. Albans Fonda facility and we will work with the appropriate agencies to help them through the transition.”

The Solo Cup Company is the leading manufacturer of single-use foodservice cups, bowls, plates, cutlery, and related items made from plastic, foam and paper. Solo acquired the Fonda plant in February 2004. A privately held company established in 1936, Solo is headquartered in Highland Park, Ill.

In his statement, Whaley said closing the St. Albans facility is “part of the strategic integration of SF Holdings’ operations — including Sweetheart Cup, Hoffmaster Tissue and The Fonda Brands.”

“To better serve our customers, we are transforming some plants into multiple technology facilities which will also result in better alignment of customer demand and supply.”

Whaley also stressed there are employment opportunities at other Solo Cup plants, which the company is encouraging displaced St. Albans employees to pursue.

Solo spokesperson Angie Chaplin reiterated Whaley’s claim this morning.

“Solo has plants all across the country and there are openings,” Chaplin said. “Solo values its employees and encourages them to apply for other positions.”

Chaplin also said the company will offer relocation assistance to employees who take a job with Solo out of state. Solo also will offer job placement assistance to Fonda employees who opt not to stay with Solo, she said.

The Fonda plant suffered job cuts even before it was bought by Solo. In 2002, between 40 and 100 jobs were eliminated as part of a restructuring plan to boost profits. At that time, there were 245 employees at the plant.

The plant is a union facility represented by PACE, the Paper Allied Industrial Chemicals and Energy Workers. Chaplin said Solo is required by law to negotiate severance packages with the union.

Tim Smith, executive director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation, this morning said he knew the Fonda plant was in danger of closing since Solo bought the facility last year.

“This is something we’ve been watching for months now,” Smith said. “We were hoping for the better, but we knew Solo was re-evaluating its operations.”

Smith was optimistic that the skilled Fonda manufacturing workers would find work quickly.

“I don’t want to downplay the significance of this job loss,” Smith said, “but I do know there are a lot of opportunities out there with other industries that are hiring.”

Smith declined to name specific companies.

St. Albans City Mayor Peter DesLauriers agreed with Smith, saying that many Fonda workers may be absorbed into the county workforce. He was, however, not pleased about the plants closure.

“Anyway you look at it, it’s not good news,” DesLauriers said. “In a short period of time, those people will be out of a job and that’s not a good thing.

DesLauriers said even if a development in the growth center progresses, the skilled Fonda workers would not necessarily be served.

“They are not looking for the kind of jobs Wal-Mart offers,” the Mayor said. “These are skilled workers.”

The St. Albans paper product plant began operations in 1942, but was not acquired by Fonda until 1980. Since its inception in 1915, Fonda had existed under many different owners with locations around the country

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Henry Raymond
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