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Morgan Insulation in Erwin closing its doors; 42 jobs lost

Jim Wozniak • May 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ERWIN — Two layoffs earlier this year that removed more than 20 people from the payroll were not enough to save an Erwin company.

Morgan Insulation will start shutting down July 13 and should finish within two months, plant manager Tom Walters said Tuesday morning. The move will affect 42 employees.

Morgan makes high-temperature insulation products.

“It’s a shock after all these years to have to do this,” Walters said.

“We’re just not able to survive this economy,” Walters said. “It’s just sad that the economy’s not cooperating. It’s pretty much a decision made by the parent company to reduce costs and try to survive this worldwide, global recession.”

Morgan is a part of Thermal Ceramics, which is a based in Augusta, Ga. Morgan Crucible is the parent company for Thermal Ceramics and Morgan Insulation.

Representatives of Thermal Ceramics came to Erwin last week to deliver the news of the plant’s closing. Walters said Thermal Ceramics is sending letters this week giving the formal 60-day notice. Those who stay until July 13 will be given severance packages, Walters said.

He said some equipment used for converted fiber products will be moved to Augusta after July 13, and some might stay here for the time being.

The building will be put on the market, Walters said.

“The shutdown will begin on July 13,” Walters said. “There may well be some shipping activities and movement of equipment out of here to Augusta after that time. ... We’ll use our own employees — a lot of our mechanical, physical maintenance people — to disassemble and move equipment. Those that are willing to do that work will be given the option to stay on beyond the July 13 date.”

Walters estimates less than half of the employees will continue working after July 13. The whole plant should be shut down by late August or early September, Walters said.

Walters said he will have better answers after he attends meetings in Augusta this week.

Walters said Morgan Insulation had layoffs in January and March that affected 21-22 people because the market was down. He said the plant has not run its bulk and blanket operation since late January.

“It’s just the economy’s not getting any better for us,” he said. “The industrial market that we service is just very poor right now. A lot of our customers are in the iron and steel industry that supply the automotive industry. And you know what’s happened there to that business.”

Employees have taken the news of the shutdown “surprisingly well,” Walters said.

“We’ve got really good employees here,” he said. “Most of them have been here as long or longer than I have. They’re certainly looking for opportunities. They’re really good, skilled employees. They’ve been very loyal. I just hope and pray that they can get other jobs.”

He said corporate officials are trying to help employees get in a position to find other jobs.

The facility has been in Erwin since the 1960s and had multiple owners.

It once was a glass plant that was vacant for about five years.

Walters has worked at the facility since the 1980s when it was owned by CE Refractories. He said he likely will retire.

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