By Debbie Hall and Taylor Boyd
Up to 140 employees may be dislocated when a manufacturing company in Patrick County shuts down this summer.
Kirk Saville, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications for HanesBrands Inc., said the company will close its Woolwine facility later this year.
“We can no longer operate the plant in a cost-competitive manner,” Saville said in an emailed statement. He added production will be transferred to the company’s other facilities.
Bryce Simmons, director of the Patrick County Economic Development Authority, said the closing will be effective July 31.
It is due, in part, “to a lack of competitiveness and because it is moving operations to Vietnam,” Simmons said he was told by the company.
“This is devastating for the people and the community. It’s just heartbreaking,” Crystal Harris, chairman of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, said of the closing.
“Our 140 Woolwine associates have done an outstanding job,” Saville wrote. “We expect to offer positions to all interested associates at the company’s nearby” distribution center in Martinsville.
He did not specify whether employees hold full-or part-time positions, but Saville wrote that those who do not wish to accept roles in Martinsville will be offered “separation benefits and career transition assistance.”
Robbie Knight, business services manager at Virginia Career Works – West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board, said John Garrison, a rapid response coordinator with the Virginia Employment Commission, is assembling a team to provide services to dislocated employees.
The team will include members of the VEC, workforce board, community college and others, Knight said, and added team members will work “to let dislocated employees know what the next steps will be.”
While Knight said he does not yet know the options that may be available to employees, or a timeline to meet with employees, he speculated the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIAO) will be among the offerings.
The WIAO program is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers needed to compete in the global economy, according to online information.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act also may be an option, Knight said of the program that helps workers who lose their jobs due to overseas markets.
“I’m not sure if Hanes is going to pursue the Trade Act or not, but if so,” a representative familiar with the aspects of the program will be among the team to meet with employees, Knight said
The loss of the company means the county would lose revenue in an already tight budget year, as county officials eye an up to 5-cents potential increase in real estate taxes.
When proposed, “we had no inkling this was going to happen,” Harris said of the closing. She added that County Administrator Geri Hazelwood was notified about the closing “just a few hours before the employees were notified.
Treasurer Sandra Stone said the company pays a combined $150,000 per year for personal property tax and real estate tax.
Although “the real estate is still going to be there, so the taxes are still going to have to be paid on the real estate,” Stone said personal property would be taxed only for as long as it remains in the building.
“If they sell the equipment, then of course that will go away. If they close the door and they sell it, then yes, we’ve lost that revenue on that equipment. But if they close that building and leave that equipment in there, then they will still owe the taxes,” she said.
Saville said the company plans to sell the property.
Simmons said he will conduct a site evaluation later this week in hopes of identifying a “purchaser of the facility to keep it in operation. Hopefully, we can plan for the future of how to best keep that facility in operation.”
The company has been a fixture in the community “since the 1950s,” Harris said. The closing “is just devastating. It’s been a lifeline for the people and for the community.”
Saville did not respond to repeated requests for additional information.
Garrison could not immediately be reached for comment.