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Douglas Dynamics shutting down Johnson City snowplow plant

Rex Barber • Apr 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

JOHNSON CITY — About 100 factory jobs will be gone from the area in 2010 when snowplow manufacturer Douglas Dynamics shuts down its Johnson City plant to focus on expanding facilities in the North.

According to the Milwaukee-based company, the decision to close the 915 Riverview Drive facility is intended to move manufacturing closer to the customers of its Fisher, Western and Blizzard lines of products.

“This is a very difficult decision because it affects the lives of our people, their families and the community; however, it is strategically important to our business,” CEO Jim Janik said in a news release. “Bold steps like this allow us to improve our competitive position even during the current economic downturn.”

Douglas Dynamics will focus on expanding its plants in Rockland, Maine, and Milwaukee. The shutdown will be a gradual process, Janik said, with operations ceasing in September 2010. The company is still evaluating the closing process and determining what kind of severance packages to offer and whether to offer jobs in its two other plants to Johnson City workers.

“I anticipate some people may be offered those positions,” Janik said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

Janik came to the Johnson City plant Monday to personally tell employees about the decision. He said it was hard and very sad to tell excellent employees the plant would be shut down, which is why the process will be gradual. That should provide enough time to help the workers get new jobs or transition their lives, Janik said.

“Most companies would tell you you’ve got two weeks,” Janik said. “I expect most of the production equipment move will take place in 2010. And we’ve done that on purpose.”

Janik had no specifics on severance packages but indicated employees would not be treated unfairly.

“I think you’ll find ultimately we’ll be incredibly generous,” Janik said.

The plant where Douglas operates in Johnson City originally contained a manufacturer of curtain wall, which is the facing on the outside of skyscrapers. Douglas bought the property about 15 years ago. Most of the jobs in the plant are skilled and include engineers, welders and assemblers.

P.C. Snapp, who directs the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Economic Development Board, said the closing of the Douglas plant was a “real loss” for Johnson City and the whole area in tough economic times.

“Hopefully things will turn around ... and they’ll be able to place with some other company around here,” Snapp said of the Douglas employees.

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