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Masonite

DENMARK -- One of Bamberg County's largest manufacturers has announced it is shutting down its local operations.

Masonite International Corporation, a door maker, says it is closing its manufacturing plant in Denmark on July 31.

That will result in the loss of 110 full-time jobs, according to SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance Vice President of Marketing Kay Maxwell.

The plant, located at 1349 Locust Ave., also has a number of temporary employees. This number was not immediately known Thursday.

The temporary employees will be released immediately, Maxwell said.

An attempt to reach Masonite officials Thursday was unsuccessful.

"The local Masonite management team was informed by corporate around Feb. 15 that Masonite is decreasing its footprint on the East Coast due to reduced sales on the East Coast," Maxwell said. "The closure of the Denmark plant is one of the facilities that will be affected by this plan."

Masonite officials said local and state officials could do nothing to help keep the plant open, Maxwell said.

"There was nothing about the business environment or anything to do with Bamberg," she said. It was a corporate decision to consolidate manufacturing plants companywide.

Masonite officials have told the SouthernCarolina Alliance that all employees at the Denmark location have been offered severance packages and benefits, and the local managers will work with any employee who may receive job offers to release them early.

Maxwell said, "The State Rapid Response Team was scheduled to be onsite last Thursday (Feb. 21), and Masonite has engaged a training group to assist employees with resume and benefits applications."

According to a notice sent to Bamberg County Administrator Joey Preston from Masonite’s senior counsel, operations at the plant will be phased out starting this month.

The notice states employees will get paid through April 16, 2019 with declining levels of employees until July 31.

Masonite is also among the county's top eight employers.

Maxwell anticipates Orangeburg, Bamberg and Barnwell county residents will be the most impacted by the closing of Masonite, citing commuting figures from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

According to DEW’s December numbers, about 528 people commuted from Orangeburg County into Bamberg County for work while 518 people commuted from Barnwell County into Bamberg County.

Bamberg County had a 5.9 percent unemployment rate in December, according to DEW.

Bamberg County Council Chairman Trent Kinard said, "It is detrimental to the community anytime you lose an employer and lose jobs."

Kinard said the silver lining is that Bamberg County owns Masonite’s 200,000-square-foot building and will work with the SouthernCarolina Alliance to get a “bigger and better” industry to fill that building.

”This is a setback, but I think we can move forward and have the right industry to go in and replace them,” he said.

Maxwell said, "As the regional marketing and industry recruitment organization, SCA is working with Masonite to return the building back to the market as soon as possible so that we can market the property to other prospective manufacturers.”

Maxwell, like Kinard, noted local companies are looking to hire, such as Blackwater Barrels in Bamberg and Energy Solutions in Barnwell.

Maxwell is optimistic Masonite employees will be able to find jobs quickly noting, "Those are the most employable people with good working skill sets."

Masonite acquired the Denmark facility in 2010 with the purchase of the former Lifetime Doors Inc. plant on Mayfield Street, which then had 40 employees.

In July 2011, Masonite said it would bring up to 200 jobs and invest $14 million in new technology over a five-year period.

The closure of Masonite comes less than three years after the company announced it was expanding its Denmark plant by adding 50 new positions. The company at that time expected the plant to continue to grow into the future.

The company now says it plans to focus on optimization of its manufacturing footprint, product lines and business portfolio to better position itself for less predictable market conditions in the year ahead.

Masonite plans to reduce the total number of manufacturing plants across the company by more than 10 percent by the second half of 2020.

The company expects to reduce jobs by 5 percent in the first half of 2019 through a combination of attrition and focused restructuring efforts.

Masonite International operates more than 70 locations around the world--with 37 sites in the United States alone. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., the company employs more than 10,000 people worldwide.

The SouthernCarolina Alliance is a marketing and industrial recruitment organization for seven counties, including Bamberg.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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