3M graphics plant to close next year 95 workers may lose their jobs by June 30

October 29, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

A commercial graphics division of industrial giant 3M -- which has Westminster roots dating to 1928 -- will close by June 30.

About 40 of the plant's 95 employees will leave Jan. 1, and the remainder will depart next year as operations wind down, said plant manager Pat Kotten.

Kotten gave the news to employees Thursday, one day after L. D. DeSimone, chairman and chief executive officer of Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, announced record profits of $927 million for the quarter ending Sept. 30.

A major portion of those profits -- about $495 million -- came from 3M's Aug. 15 sale of its National Advertising Co. subsidiary to Phoenix-based Outdoor Systems, Inc., the nation's largest billboard advertiser.

Ironically, the sale of National -- a billboard company founded by the late Scott Bair in Westminster in 1928 and sold to 3M in 1947 -- led to the local plant's demise.

Although the Westminster plant devoted only 20 percent of its operations to billboard manufacturing until recently, it began converting to billboards exclusively in the past year. Most of its business previously had been the manufacture of vinyl signs.

The vinyl sign operation will be transferred to a 3M plant in Nevada, Mo., where there are 10 to 15 jobs available, Kotten said.

Attempts to sell the Westminster operation were unsuccessful, Kotten said. "Two potential buyers visited the facility, but decided not to purchase the plant and continue the operations," he said.

The 3M company told employees about the closing last week "because we wanted to give as much notice as possible," Kotten said. "The sooner the announcement was made, the sooner resources could be in place to help with the transition. We did not want to delay those services."

The St. Paul, Minn.-based manufacturer plans to help Westminster's 23 salaried and 72 hourly employees find jobs at one of 3M's 80 facilities elsewhere in the nation or with another company locally, Kotten said.

"We plan to place as many as we can at 3M," he said, "but not all those facilities have openings." The nearest 3M plants are in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, Illinois and Minnesota, he said.

A lot of the Westminster employees grew up in the area and might wish to stay here, Kotten said. "We will do everything we can" to find employment for them, he said. "We have a lot of talented people and I hope that as they enter the labor market, Carroll County employers will give them every consideration."

Carroll County Economic Director John T. Lyburn Jr. said the county would give 3M the services of Carroll's Business and Employment Resource Center to help employees through what Kotten calls "a rather emotional time."

"It is sad to see a distinctive company like 3M leaving the community," Lyburn said. "Though we had been working with 3M to preserve the Westminster plant, we now intend to focus our efforts on new employment opportunities for the dislocated employees."

The Business and Employment Resource Center will work closely with employees on "job matching, skill updates, and resume preparation," Lyburn said. "Our goal is to find quality employment for all employees who wish to re-enter the job market. 3M supported the community for the last 50 years, and we intend to to all we can to support them now."

Westminster's 3M parent has hired "a leading transition consulting firm that will be in here next week," Kotten said, "to coordinate professional assistance to employees in the areas of financial planning, job placement, career and other counseling."

Employees will be offered a severance package with at least 13 weeks' salary and six months' medical coverage.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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