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Friday, May 24, 2024

Montgomery County vows to ‘rebound’ from plant closing

A paper packaging manufacturer for the food industry will permanently close its operations in Mount Gilead at the end of March, which will result in 74 people losing their jobs.

PaperWorks, based in the Philadelphia suburb of Fort Washington, filed paperwork Thursday with the N.C. Department of Commerce that stated it was permanently closing the Montgomery County facility for “financial reasons” but was not more specific. None of the employees who work there are part of a union.

Savannah Heath, director of Montgomery County Economic Development, was caught off guard by the news but says she talked with local company officials Friday morning. “They’re doing their best to work with every single employee so that they do have employment,” Heath says of that conversation.

The facility has had several different owners over the years, but many of those working in Mount Gilead had been there 20 to 40 years, she says. She says the company told employees of the closing on Thursday and gave all of them a paid day off Friday to adjust to the news. The company told Heath that employees would receive severance packages, she says.

Having jobs until the facility shuts down March 31 should offer PaperWorks employees lead time to find employment, she says. She says she’ll work with Montgomery Community College and other government agencies to help employees find new jobs.

“We’re going to work with this company to make this an easy transition for the employees,” Heath says. “This hurts Mount Gilead, especially since they’re so small, but we will rebound.”

Mount Gilead, located about 55 miles east of Charlotte, has about 1,100 residents. Montgomery County has less than 26,000 residents, according to 2021 census figures.

Heath says she’ll touch base with other major employers in Montgomery County – such as Troy Lumber and Jordan Lumber, Grede, which makes metal castings for the automotive industry, and food processor Saputo – to attempt to keep those workers in Montgomery County.

“They’re a good employer for the town,” added Dylan Haman, town manager of Mount Gilead. “If they do leave, we will miss them.”

He says he also didn’t know of the plant closing, adding a member of the town commission works there.

The PaperWorks building will be a good property to market to other businesses, says both Haman and Heath. “It’s a good building and it’s in a good location,” says Haman. The 39.5-acre property, which fronts N.C. 73, includes a 71,540-square-foot building that was built in 1979 and underwent improvements in 1988, according to Montgomery County tax records. The total value of the property is almost $2.6 million, according to tax records.

PaperWorks employs about 1,400 workers at nine locations in six states and Canada, including a facility about 75 miles north in Whitsett, located in eastern Guilford County. Other states it operates in include Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and New York, and Ontario, Canada.

Company officials did not immediately return phone messages.

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