Red Wing to close Danville plant

gkocher1@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2009 

Here's a ripple effect from the recession: The loss of blue-collar jobs across the country has led to the closing of a Danville plant that makes work boots.

Red Wing Shoe Co. announced Thursday that the plant which employs 206 people will close as part of a restructuring. The company will also eliminate the second shift of a plant in Red Wing, Minn., the company's home base.

Red Wing has operated the Danville factory since 1994. Production will shift from the Danville plant to a factory in Potosi, Mo., and the plant in Red Wing. Company spokesman Peter Engel said there will be a series of layoffs in Danville until final closure in June.

Red Wing President Dave Murphy said in a press release that the company's plants have been operating at "less than ideal efficiency through reduced work weeks and occasional shut downs."

"We were optimistic that the economy would recover sooner than later, however the continued record unemployment in the blue collar segment, which is our core consumer base, shows no sign of a quick recovery," Murphy said.

Jody Lassiter, president and CEO of the Danville/Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, said he was "surprised and disappointed" by Red Wing's "unexpected decision."

"The local community was not given any preliminary notice of the company's intent to close or that there were issues relative to capacity or their operations in Danville," Lassiter said. "The abruptness of the decision makes it very obvious to us that there is not an opportunity — as we do with many projects — to offer incentives, assistance to keep the facility open in Danville."

Engel said Red Wing's other two plants were in a better position to expand when the economy improves.

Red Wing's announcement comes on the heels of last week's news that another large Danville manufacturer, conveyor maker FKI Logistex, may move to Ohio. That would mean the loss of 240 jobs.

Before the Red Wing and FKI Logistex announcements, Danville and Boyle County had lost perhaps 500 jobs in 25 industries during the recession, Lassiter said.

"We weren't bulletproof, but we were weathering the recession, " Lassiter said.

On the brighter side, Hitachi Automotive Products in neighboring Harrodsburg plans to expand its plant, a move that will add more than 100 jobs, Gov. Steve Beshear said on Tuesday. Hitachi will add a production line for a new advanced fuel system. Residents from surrounding counties, including Boyle, could benefit from that decision.

"County lines mean nothing, and we're a regional economy, so, yes, we're pleased" by the Hitachi expansion, Lassiter said.

Greg Kocher covers Boyle County for the Herald-Leader. Reach him in the Nicholasville bureau at (859) 885-5775.

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