Senator urges local manufacturer not to close plants

Nov. 23—After being turned down in a request for a meeting with company leaders, Sen. Sherrod Brown is publicly urging Norcold not to close its refrigeration products plants in Shelby and Darke counties.

Norcold LLC plans to lay off a total of 358 workers from sites in Shelby and Darke counties, the company notified the state late last month.

The refrigerator producer will permanently close its plants at 600 S. Kuther Road, in Sidney, and 1 Century Drive, in Darke County's Gettysburg, effective Dec. 31, a Norcold human relations manager, Heather Bates, told the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in separate letters dated Oct. 27.

The senator's office is sharing a letter he wrote to the company's chief executive after he said company leaders declined to meet with him to discuss the closing plans.

Brown sent a letter to Stephane Cordeille, chief executive of Norcold parent Thetford Corp., a company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., urging the company to reconsider closing the operations.

"The decision to close Norcold in Gettysburg and Sidney is short-sighted and fails to recognize the productivity of their workforce," Brown wrote in a letter he shared publicly this week. "It has also caught these communities by surprise after many years of service. Ohio's workers can compete with anyone in the world, and I urge Norcold to reconsider their decision and find a way to continue investing in the communities that have been Norcold's home for more than half a century."

Brown's office said the senator attempted to meet with Norcold representatives to discuss the decision, but the company declined.

Brown said in a release that he requested Norcold to respond in writing by December 7.

James Hill, who leads the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, said Wednesday he reached out to Norcold and Thetford and offered to assist the company.

Hill said Brittany Swartz, Norcold's local human resources manager, told him the company is "working to connect their employees to new job opportunities."

"She said that numerous companies have expressed interest hiring Norcold employees," Hill said.

Andrew Bowsher, Sidney city manager, said Norcold leaders have given no reason to believe their decision is reversible.

"Everything they have led us to believe is that this is set in stone," Bowsher said.

However, he said Sidney has "no shortage of employers looking for employees." Bowsher said the 180 to 200 Sidney workers affected by the decision should be able to find new jobs.

Gettysburg Village Administrator Jay Roberts said Norcold has not been in touch with him, and he doubted the company has contacted the village mayor, Mike Shives. A message was left for Shives.

A full copy of Brown's letter is available here:

The letter says in part:

"Too often, we have seen companies close facilities in Ohio, but it is extremely rare for a company to refuse to engage with my office to discuss ways to try to reduce the harm a plant closure inevitably has on workers and their communities. I look forward to a prompt response that details how you plan to serve both your dedicated employees and the communities they call home."

Monomoy Capital Partners, a middle-market private investment firm, agreed to acquire Thetford from the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp. about a year ago.

A message seeking comment was sent to Joanne Verkuilen, managing partner of Monomoy.