Bush Industries Closing St. Paul VA Furniture Plant

March 07, 2003 By Amy Gatley

ST. PAUL - A major manufacturer in Wise County has announced it will shut its doors, leaving 140 people jobless.

Bush Industries announced Thursday in a prepared release that it is closing its St. Paul furniture manufacturing facility, idling 118 hourly employees and 22 salaried employees.

Bush blamed the closing on the need to reduce capacity and the lingering downtown in the economy and the furniture industry.

"The decision to close St. Paul was a very difficult one but one that was very necessary to rightsize manufacturing capacities in light of the ongoing slow demand for furniture," said Ernest C. Artista, vice president of corporate communications at Bush.

"We, like most American manufacturers, hoped to see a rebound in the economy in late 2002, but it just never materialized forcing our decision. The St. Paul team is a good one, and we have enjoyed doing business in Southwest Virginia," he added.

The 285,000-square-foot facility, which manufactures ready-to-assemble furniture for such retailers as Office Deport, was purchased by Bush in April 1998. The work currently being done at St. Paul will be moved to Bush facilities in western New York and Pennsylvania.

The release did not say when employees were notified of the closure or how long the facility will remain open. Calls to the Bush plant on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned. Contacted Wednesday, St. Paul Industrial Development Chairman Bob Harrison said he was aware that the Bush plant was closing but had not been told officially.

"I believe there are 120 employees, and they are spread out all over the town and in Wise and Russell counties. Anytime you lose 120 jobs it has an impact on the economy of the local area, so we are concerned about those employees, and we are also concerned about the lost revenue to the area," Harrison said.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher announced that he had contacted the U.S. Department of Labor to assist the displaced workers, hoping to expedite the submission of the company's petition for workers' assistance.

The federal funding Boucher is working to secure would provide job outreach services, career counseling, job search and job development assistance, classroom training, on-the-job training, meal allowances, and transportation assistance.

"Federal funding will be of critical importance to the workers who have been affected by the closure at the Bush facility. These workers deserve our help. I am hopeful that the U.S. Department of Labor will quickly approve my request and provide the job retraining assistance which will lessen the burden of this closure," Boucher said.

Boucher explained that the requested funding would be furnished by the U.S. Department of Labor under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which provides assistance for workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign imports or plant relocations outside the United States.

In addition to job retraining benefits, the program also provides up to 52 weeks of additional unemployment insurance benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks available to all workers who lose jobs.

The additional assistance enables unemployed workers to continue searching for work or to continue participation in training programs.

"The TRA program is a comprehensive job retraining initiative which was created to assist workers who have been laid off due to increased global market competition, and I am hopeful that we will succeed in making the benefits available to the employees of Bush Industries," said Boucher.

Copyright 2002 Kingsport Times-News.


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