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About 300 people to lose their jobs

Scott Seitz2 • Aug 29, 2013 at 10:07 PM

The Janesville Acoustics facility will close its doors in Norwalk.

Corporate officials were at Plant 60 on Wednesday morning and announced the company will begin phasing out workers through the end of 2014.

The plant presently employs about 296 people, including hourly and salaried.

(NOTE - Local officials and residents lament the loss of Janesville in a pair of stories published exclusively in Thursday's Norwalk Reflector.)

Janesville officials talked about the phase-out plans.

"These plans come in response to market pressures, including increased demand from customers to manufacture in closer proximity to their operations," the company said in a prepared statement.

"The company intends to establish a new plant in Kansas, Missouri or Nebraska before the close of 2013, a location within reach of the assembly plants of many current Janesville Acoustics customers," officials said.

The Norwalk plant is scheduled to permanently close by the end of 2014, with the earliest signs of the phase-out period commencing this fall, officials added.

"We've worked around the challenges associated with supplying customers long-distance from Norwalk," said David Cataldi, president of Janesville Acoustics.

"However, given the rising costs of logistics and the benefits of improved flexibility and efficiency that come from working nearby our business partners, we've reached a point where proximity has become essential to our continued growth," Cataldi added.

"Decisions that affect the lives of our employees and their families are extremely difficult to make," he said. "We greatly value the contributions each of our employees have made during our more than 20 years in Norwalk and are committed to supporting them during this difficult transition."

Janesville is headquartered in Southfield, Mich.

"Janesville Acoustics will immediately enter negotiations with the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board, the union representatives of its employees, and is committed to working with them to assist employees throughout the extended phase-out of the plant," Janesville officials added.

Founded in 1875, Janesville also has plants and satellite offices in Mississippi, North Carolina, Germany and Mexico.

Doug Warren, local union representative at Janesville (Workers United), said officials pulled workers off first shift Wednesday and made the announcement at the Norwalk plant.

Warren said employees were stunned.

"Just like anybody, you go through a wide range of emotions," Warren said. "There was shock. People were visibly upset. It's an emotional time when you hear the company you know is closing the facility. You're talking about people's livelihoods."

The announcement appeared to catch Norwalk officials flat-footed.

"We just received the information this morning," said Ellen Heinz, executive director of the Norwalk Economic Development Corp.

"This is terrible news and we will work to see if there is any way we can keep the company here. Janesville has been one of our largest employers and a corporate partner for many years and the jobs it has provided to Norwalk and Huron County have been very important to our community," Heinz added.

"Although we have worked with the company on many issues and communicate with their representatives on a regular basis, more information is still coming in. According to their corporate leadership, they came to this decision because our local plant doesn't meet their logistical needs in regards to the proximity to the clients they serve," Heinz said.

"We have reached out to our area partners, regional leadership and the state to coordinate efforts to do everything possible and to support the workforce and the community," she added.

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