A decades-old company in Bradford is having financial difficulty, and officials are hoping things turn around before closure is the only option.
Roger Korenstra, one of a group of investors who own Jasper Plastics in Indiana and bought Werzalit of Bradford about a year ago, said Wednesday that there wasn’t much he could say at this time.
“So much is unknown,” he explained. “A couple of the products” that Werzalit was planning didn’t materialize. And one of its larger customers has cut back, too.
“One of the bigger customers was Batesville Casket; they are one of the largest in the business,” Korenstra said. Werzalit was contracted to make parts for caskets. However, industry changes have made an impact.
“The industry today is going so fast to cremation that it’s really reduced the opportunities for the company,” he said.
Korenstra, who is based in Indiana, said the company is “trying to figure out if we can get additional investors. The rumors of it closing just seem to mount.”
He said, however, the decision to close hasn’t been made.
“It is our goal to decide by September or October,” he said, adding he’s hopeful it won’t come to that. “Closing is one of the options. We don’t want to do that. Realistically, it is an option.
“Money is scarce,” he said, lamenting the state of the industry. “Some people have been laid off and some are working less hours.”
Officials with the City of Bradford are disappointed about a potential loss of jobs.
Mayor Tom Riel said Wednesday that city officials learned earlier this month about the issues with Werzalit.
“City of Bradford officials learned 10 days ago that Werzalit employees had been informed they would be losing their jobs by the end of August, primarily due to a loss of product lines,” Riel said. “The city has had a roughly 40-year history working with Werzalit.
“It’s sad to hear when anybody loses their job,” he continued. “We hope the employees are able to find gainful employment among other area industries as soon as possible.”
Riel added that city officials have been in contact with Jasper regarding the possibility of closure.
“The future of the facility itself is unknown at this time,” the mayor said.
With jobs having already been lost due to a downturn, PA CareerLink is helping out where it can.
Terry Cole, administrator at CareerLink, said the agency has reached out to Werzalit “and is in the process of providing services to the dislocated workers.”
Thomas Werstler, Rapid Response Unit, Department of Labor and Industry, is coordinating an initial group session for employees at Werzalit at 2 p.m. Wednesday. CareerLink staff and affected employees will be included in the session, Cole said.
“Going forward, separated employees may apply for unemployment compensation and reemployment services at the PA CareerLink that may include short-term training, job search workshops, on-the-job training opportunities, and many, many more services,” she added.
Werzalit has been in Bradford since 1978. The facility uses Pennsylvania hardwoods from the Allegheny National Forest and other local sources, chips them into a controlled wood flake, and molds the flake with thermoset resins to produce weather-resistant products, including table tops, architectural profiles and industrial products, according to its website.