TRACO to cut jobs

Published 4:20 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

Surprised that the national economic downturn hasn’t hit locally harder and sooner, Development Authority Executive Director Rick McCaskill told Chamber of Commerce board members Wednesday that TRACO will have a “layer of layoffs.”

He said the window and door manufacture will cut its production to two lines and cut its workforce to a point of having 70 employees in place. McCaskill said the building and construction industry in the nation has been hit really hard, but TRACO has hung in there—to this point.

McCaskill said the rumors on the streets were that the company may shut down, so the fact that it will continue with two production lines and 70 employees is good news.

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Denise Abraham, manager of TRACO’s marketing and communications in Cranberry Township, Pa., said the company intends to stay and they will bring those employees back as soon as the economy picks up again.

“We made a commitment down there,” Abraham said. She said the employees were notified on Wednesday, and the layoffs will take effect over a 60-day period.

Bill Palmer, local manager of the Georgia Department of Labor office, said he wasn’t aware of TRACO’s situation. However, McCaskill said TRACO has notified its employees.

TRACO rebuilt the Development Authority’s spec building on U.S. 27 North in 2006-2007, transforming the building from a two-sided eyesore, vacant since its construction in 1997, to a $10 million facility that builds hurricane-resistant windows and doors. The Pennsylvania-based company chose Bainbridge because of its central location between Florida and Texas and its proximity to the Gulf Coast.

When TRACO broke ground in November 2006, Gov. Sonny Perdue joined company executives and local officials in anticipation of the company creating approximately 300 new jobs within three years.

McCaskill said any grant money the company received as a result of locating in Bainbridge is not in jeopardy.

The State of Georgia agreed to grant $500,000 to the Development Authority and Decatur County to assist with the necessary infrastructure improvements for TRACO’s building. Also, when TRACO finished the improvements to the old spec building, the Development Authority issued and sold up to $10 million in industrial revenue bonds with tax-exempt interest, bought the building and equipment and leased it back to TRACO over a 10-year period.

As long as the authority owns the property, it is tax exempt; however, TRACO agreed to make annual payments through the authority to Decatur County of an amount equal to school taxes for the life of the 10-year lease-to-purchase arrangement, as well as any grant recovery payments and community recovery payments due.

McCaskill stayed positive despite TRACO’s layoffs, saying he recently had a “good” prospective company visit Bainbridge, and that if the economy would straighten out, “we have a lot of interest.”

“I’m really encouraged by the level of activity,” McCaskill said.

Decatur County unemployment rate in September was 8.5 percent, which did not include the closing of the American Fibers and Yarns plant in October and TRACO’s anticipated layoffs.