Milgard plant closure to spur 135 job losses

Milgard Windows in Hollister will be cutting jobs and looking to

Milgard Windows & Doors is closing its Hollister manufacturing plant, operating since 1986, in a move expected to spur 135 job losses and the sale of the company’s local facility on Bert Drive.

Milgard Windows, a subsidiary of Michigan-based Masco Corp., recently announced the anticipated closure of the Hollister manufacturing plant along with other facilities in Phoenix and Chicago. According to a company statement announcing the closures, the 135 Hollister employees will get severance packages and outplacement services to assist them with job searches. The company noted it would “work with employees who wish to be considered for positions at other plant locations,” according to the statement provided by company spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes.

That statement noted that the company “over the next few months” would move window manufacturing from its Hollister plant to Milgard’s Sacramento operation.

The Economic Development Corp. of San Benito County is working with company officials to potentially find a smaller location to continue as a base for some “sales and service operations,” said EDC President Nancy Martin. The company was vague about future, prospective plans in Hollister and noted in the announcement it expects to provide “products and services to all markets served by the Hollister and Phoenix locations.”

Martin attributed the company’s downsizing to the continually stagnant housing market – a topic of which Hollister residents are all too well aware, with San Benito County at one point during the downturn ranking second in the state for having the most foreclosures per capita.

“Apparently, they’ve lost so many major contracts so they’re consolidating a couple of their different plants,” Martin said. “Nobody’s building houses, so guess what? It’s a function of this economy that’s really hurt Milgard. They love being here – I do know that.”

Martin noted that the county’s One-Stop Career Center would be using grant funds to help in assisting those employees. She said the county agency already has met with some of the workers to discuss the services.

Milgard’s plant closure is another crushing blow for the local economy, which has experienced chronically high unemployment rates on top of the foreclosure problem. Hollister Milgard itself had more than 350 employees in the early part of the 2000s.

Just three years ago, meanwhile, one of the other major employers in the county, Lifesparc, closed its manufacturing operations in Hollister. The Hollister Lifesparc plant, established in 2001, built electrical initiators for automotive safety devices in another industry hit particularly hard by the recession. That company had more than 300 employees a few years before its closure.

Like with Lifesparc, local residents can expect to see some level of remnants of the company as they know it. Masco does, however, plan to sell the manufacturing property on Bert Drive.

That property had a total assessed value this year of $13.383 million – with the land value estimated at $2.69 million, the improvement value at $6.581 million and business equipment at $4.113 million, said county Assessor Tom Slavich.

The action taken by Milgard comes in light of several difficult years for the business. Milgard is one of 39 companies owned by Masco, and it falls under the “other specialty products” portion of the conglomerate’s 2010 annual report. According to that document, the division lost $124 million in 2008 and another $199 million in 2009, though it was $19 million on the plus side in 2010.