CFM Corp. on Market Street in Huntington is expected to make an employment announcement Wednesday morning. (Herald-Press/Matthew Berry)
CFM Corp. on Market Street in Huntington is expected to make an employment announcement Wednesday morning. (Herald-Press/Matthew Berry)

By TOM DAVIS, Huntington Herald-Press Managing Editor

Just 10 months following a major celebration in announcing the addition of 214 jobs to its Huntington facility, CFM Corp. has sent notice to the City that there is "probability of either mass lay offs or of complete plant closure" due to its filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday.

In a letter to Huntington Mayor Steve Updike, Bill McCann, Human Resource Manager at CFM, informed the City that it had filed for protection from creditors both in Canada and the United States. The company is based in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario.

"We've left several messages for (McCann), but he hasn't returned our calls," a distraught Mayor Updike explained.

This news comes following other negative economic announcements from this county, which has seen Five Star, Stride Rite and Hayes Lemerz also announce the closing of facilities.

The letter explains that filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows the company creditor protection for a period of time while its finances are restructured.

"We should keep in mind, that in rare instances, announcements of Chapter 11 protection can sometimes result in a stronger and more prosperous company," Huntington County United Economic Development Director Mark Wickersham said. "It's never good news, but it isn't always an absolute guarantee that the end is coming either."

It did state that should a mass layoff occur among the 390 current employees rather than a complete shut down, bumping rights for those employees represented by Local 204 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association would be governed by the labor contract.

If the entire facility is closed - or, alternately, if the assets of the facility or business are sold - all positions would be permanently eliminated and there would be no bumping or transfer opportunities of any kind.

In compliance with the the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988, CFM Corp. is providing at least 60 days notice to the City. A specific date is not given at this time for either the layoffs or closure, but CFM did say that either may occur between June 15 and July 31 of this year.

"I think everyone understands that this is a very difficult time for the economy," Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington said. "And it is going to take time to turn this (downslide) around."

Rep. Leonard said he has has been in contact with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. regarding CFM, and despite the recent struggles of the local economy, has a positive outlook for the future of this county.

"I do think (Huntington County) is headed in the right direction," Rep. Leonard said. "We just hired Mark Wickersham as the head of (HCUED), and I think he'll do a tremendous job. But it will take time."

Wickersham agreed with Rep. Leonard on the future prospects of Huntington County.

"HCUED will be unveiling a new strategic comprehensive plan in the near future and I believe it will help bring us together to focus on ways to make Huntington County a better place to live and work," Wickersham said. "We will be working very hard focusing on creating opportunities for new job creation and new capital investments in our county."

It was June of 2007 when CFM Corp. reached an agreement to commit more than $4.4 million to facility and equipment upgrades, as it announced that it was going to concentrate its North American operations in Huntington. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels joined local and corporate officials in heralding the job growth.

"State and local officials attempted to help CFM with an expansion plan last year," Wickersham explained. "Such plans are never without risk and sometimes the marketplace just takes a turn a company can't help."

At the time, CFM's president and chief executive officer Larry Robinette said "Shipping from Huntington is the right decision for CFM as well as its customers." The announcement came in the 100th anniversary year of the company's predecessor, Majestic Company, moving to Huntington from Michigan.

The IEDC offered CFM up to $2.4 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $145,000 in training grants based upon the company's announced job creation plans.

"An announcement like this is never the type of business news we hope for in Huntington County," Wickersham said. "We really feel badly for the company and its employees."

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