adidas store Kutztown Shoe Plant Will Close
“I don’t think it was much of a surprise this time around,” said Diane Schlegel, an employee at the factory for two years. “We have been seeing a decline in the number of employees since Dae Yang took over. In some cases, job duties and wages have been cut.”
Schlegel said employees were told they would receive word later this month on what, if any, benefits they will receive through the closing.
Kutztown Mayor James Schwoyer, who met with company officials yesterday, later said he was surprised Dae Yang did not give the plant at least a year to prove itself after the pep talk and optimistic forecast the company delivered when it bought the plant in January.
“I’m sure they came in here with good meanings, but now workers will doubt anyone else coming in here,” Schwoyer said.
Dae Yang officials could not be reached for comment.
Schwoyer said he was told the company’s increasing costs for raw materials made the plant’s operation infeasible. One example the company cited was a 400 percent increase in the cost of cotton canvas for the shoes. It did not indicate any reason for the skyrocketing cost in supplies, he said.
Dae Yang purchased the Kutztown plant in January from Adidas USA Inc. for an undisclosed price. The sale gave hope to nearly 200 workers of one of Kutztown’s largest employers. factory in 1980. At the time, company officials forecast increasing production from 2,000 pairs of shoes daily to 20,000 and employment from 200 workers to 2,000.
But the plant never increased production enough to justify hiring more people under Adidas, and now the latest rescue has failed.
Gloria Jean Reimer, a former employee who retired in August, said workers at the plant thought the Koreans got “a bum steer from Adidas” about the prospects for the plant.
“The consensus before I left was that, if Adidas could have made it, they would have stayed,
” she said. “The Koreans made a sincere effort, but I think they were falsely informed.”
Schlegel said she thought Dae Yang’s expectations might have been too high. “I don’t think they realized what they were getting into.”
When Adidas announced it was leaving, employees started looking for jobs elsewhere. When Dae Yang took over, it did not increase wages and recently started to cut pay, she said.
“When other employers called, people took the jobs. They didn’t see themselves going anywhere here. We used to make the shoes from scratch here, but now we don’t do any of the sewing in the plant. That is done outside and shipped in,” said Schlegel, who worked on the line.
Schlegel said her biggest concern is finding another job in an area that has been hit with several plant closings during the past three years, including Beverage Works bottling plant in Fleetwood.
The Caloric Corp. plant in nearby Topton also recently announced plans to close by the end of the year, eliminating more than 400 jobs.
“There’s not much left in the area,” said Schlegel, whose husband works for a small business that does not have employee insurance. “Losing the benefits is a big concern.
“But it will also be really hard to leave the people. I don’t think it hit us today, but it will when we punch the time card for the last time.”
Mayor Schwoyer said he hopes the community will be able to attract another company to the modern plant by touting the area’s work ethic, location and low borough taxes. He said he does not know of any company interested in the factory at this time.
“Some, but not all, of the jobs can be absorbed, but the sewing and shoe businesses are at a low point now,” Schwoyer said. “Any time a plant closes, it puts a burden on what is left in a town. Whether it’s 10 people or 135 people losing their jobs,
it hurts the families and it hurts the economy of the area.”