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180 lose jobs as Johnson City business shuts two local plants

JEFF KEELING • Jan 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Mazer Corp., which prints workbooks and other materials for the educational market, closed its two Johnson City facilities Tuesday afternoon, putting at least 180 people out of work. A corporate e-mail to some employees, though, expressed hope a buyer would emerge and “reconstitute” the business. Mazer’s local plants are at 183 Lynn Road and 704 Rolling Hills Drive and have operated here for more than 25 years. A day shift worker whose supervisor called her Tuesday evening said Wednesdaymorning she was advised to not even count on her paycheck due for direct deposit Friday, and that the entire Dayton, Ohiobased company was closing. “His exact words when he called me was, ‘they’ve closed the doors on us, and you’re not to report to work,’ ” the employee said. An e-mail from CEO David Mazer to some employees of the 44-year-old company was forwarded to the Johnson City Press Wednesday morning. It said the company was in “ongoing negotiations with a potential buyer of the Creative Services Division.” The e-mail cited “a combination of events in the publishing market and the state of the general economy” for the closure. It also indicated Mazer had been trying to secure funding to continue operations but had been unable to do so. P.C. Snapp, executive director of the local Economic Development Board, said a company official told him Mazer typically obtained a “bridge loan” to carry it through the slow winter months. “This came as a real surprise, because they just finished an expansion here a couple years ago,” Snapp said. The Mazer employee said the location where she worked had more layoffs than usual this fall. The third shift was eliminated in October, she said. “I made good money there, and we worked a lot of overtime,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to us, but the bottom seemed to fall out the last six months.” She said the news from her supervisor, just three hours after she had left her day shift position, came as a shock despite the fall slowdown. “I had told everyone there when I left yesterday, ‘I’ll see you Friday.’ ” Instead, the woman has written again to her political representatives, whom she said she has been writing to recently about the country’s financial crisis and the government’s intervention in it. “I said, ‘Alright, I’ve lost my job, what are you going to do to help me,’ and I know the answer’s going to be no, because I’m not in that right category of having millions of dollars.” The employee, who has worked at Mazer more than 20 years, said she had refinanced her house recently and is simply hoping she’ll be able to weather this disruption. She said her supervisor told her he would be trying today to find out all he could about paychecks, severance pay, retirement accounts and other such issues. The woman described herself as angry over the way the closing was handled. “They had to know what they were doing,” she said. Calls to Mazer facilities in Johnson City were not answered this morning, and a voicemail message at Dayton headquarters said the company was closed for the holiday.

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