CHARLESTOWN — NIBCO, a valve and fitting manufacturer based in Elkhart, has announced plans to cease operations at its Charlestown plant in phases starting in July.
According to a notification under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications Act (WARN notice) posted May 16, the first phase of permanent shutdowns will take place July 19 and affect 39 of the 97 employees — 10 of them operators. According to self-reporting employment website Glassdoor.com, operators at NIBCO make around $20 per hour. The notice also states that it's unknown when the phases will be complete.
A second WARN notice was posted Friday, showing that the second round of closures will be July 26 and involve 11 employees — five A-Tech packers, two cell team operators, two shipping team members, one quality assurance technician and one packer.
In January, NIBCO sold the Charlestown facility at Quality Court along Indiana 62 as well as one of its product lines to Michigan-based company Viking Group Inc. Viking, previously a NIBCO customer, now controls the BlazeMaster line. Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall said from his understanding, Viking plans to phase out the NIBCO machinery and integrate lines for more of its own products.
A statement released from NIBCO in January alluded to the eventual closure.
"...NIBCO will start a process of consolidation of the industrial plastics production to its other U.S.-based plastic manufacturing plants and that process is expected to last through most of 2019," it reads, in part. "NIBCO associates will be given the opportunity to transfer to other NIBCO locations."
Last week's WARN notice states that there will be opportunities at Viking or other NIBCO plants for some of the displaced employees. NIBCO has 12 plants internationally, including in the U.S., Mexico and Poland. Its headquarters is in Elkhart.
"The WARN notice was issued to ensure we were compliant because of a possible elimination of jobs," Ed Sullivan, NIBCO vice president and general counsel said Friday afternoon.
"But we have been assuming that many of the jobs will be retained because Viking products will be made there."
The cease in production is strictly related to the January sale, he said. There will not be a decrease in production of parts; the production will just be moving. The NIBCO production will be moved to its Goshen plant, which Sullivan said already has space for it.
Hall said the family-owned NIBCO has been a great company to have in the community, but he also welcomes the international brand Viking to the city.
"We look forward to working with Viking as they continue to grow their business," he said, adding that getting Viking helps with the loss of NIBCO. He said he sees the transaction as a normal part of business ventures.
"I think that's what happens with businesses; they buy and sell," he said. "Nobody likes to have to go out and look for a job but the good news is right now we have a growing economy and many of those people have already been offered jobs."
Still, Hall said he knows that not all current employees will have replacement jobs at either Viking or NIBCO.
"I think there will be some affected," he said. "I appreciate that NIBCO is taking some people with them and that everybody involved seems to be going in the same direction to make sure that impact is minimal."
The 97 employees who will be phased out of NIBCO are not affiliated with a union, the WARN notice states. Messages left Friday for representatives of Viking were not returned by press time.