Wrens plant closing; 120 to lose jobs

WRENS, Ga. -- At shift change Thursday morning, around 120 employees of Glit/Microtron were told that the Wrens plant will be closing in 60 days.

“This plant has had economic difficulties for quite a while,” said Bryan Brown, Glit’s director of manufacturing, who has been at the plant for nearly four years. “We have tried a lot of different things to turn this around. We’ve had a lot of support from the local community. Tom (Jordan, Jefferson County’s economic developer) has been a big part of that as has the local college (Oconee Fall Line Tech, formerly Sandersville Tech). We were able to do a lot of good things in this facility. But as far as making money, we just haven’t been able to get to that point.”

According to Brown, the business was moved to Wrens in 1978 and its primary product lines include coated abrasives, sand screen and scrubbing pads, a large portion of which are used in the floor care industry.

“I think the official word is the economy,” Brown said. “Basically the capability has grown and the volume has dropped. We have a wide range of products. Unfortunately, probably the biggest product line is the floor pads and that’s the biggest problem as far as cost. There are a lot of people world-wide in that portion of the business.

“They’re (Katy Industries, Glit’s owners) getting out of this part of the floor care business which is the main part of what this plant does.”

For the last year and a half employees have seen potential buyers tour the facility. Brown said that while he feels everyone at the plant knew this was a possibility, they were all hoping a buyer would be found.

“We’ve been trying to get the business and basically the operations in a good form to be able to sell the facility,” Brown said. “We created a value here. And we’ve tried to sell over the last year and a half. I would say it has been accelerated over the last six months. We just haven’t been able to secure a buyer. It comes to a point where they are no longer going to fund the losses of the facility.”

The 60-day notice will give the plant time to fill its last orders, help transition customers to other providers as well as give the company time to work with state agencies on arranging severance packages and other services for employees. Some have has much as 30 years service with the company.

“We have people who started here as teenagers and dedicated their whole lives, years later they’re still here,” Brown said. “Obviously we want to take care of those people with a seniority-based severance.”

Jordan said this closure comes as a blow to a struggling county like Jefferson, which is currently considered ninth from the worst economically blighted county in Georgia by the Department of Community Affairs. However, PyraMax Ceramics, a manufacturing plant whose construction is nearing completion just four miles south of Wrens, will be looking to fill around 50 positions in the next three months.

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