KraftMaid lays off hundreds



The number of laid-off workers is about the same as were hired earlier in the year, one worker said.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
MIDDLEFIELD -- A slowdown in building and renovation industry is being blamed for the layoff of hundreds of employees at KraftMaid Cabinetry's production facilities in Middlefield and Orwell.
Workers learned of the layoffs Thursday, a spokeswoman said.
"It's a very tough decision," Masco spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said of layoffs. "Any employee action is a tough decision."
In a Sept. 20, 2006, press release, Masco Corp. of Taylor Mich., the parent company of KraftMaid, said there had been a softening of incoming orders for building products and services in recent weeks, along with a forecasted deeper-than-expected decline in single-family housing starts for the last four months of 2006.
Vokes said housing starts were down 12 percent in 2006 nationally, most of it in the second half of the year. She said the decline has been reported also by the big-box building supply retailers.
Vokes would not say how many workers had been laid off Thursday, but one worker estimated the number to be around 600. Vokes said the layoffs affected workers at two plants in Middlefield, one in Orwell and one in Sayre, Pa.
Asked about worker questions as to the effect of a new production facility being built in Utah, Vokes said production has not begun there yet and isn't a factor in the layoffs in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She said construction at the Utah facility is about half finished.
"We're hopeful the industry will rebound in the first half of 2007," she said. "In a best-case scenario ... employees can be called back. That would be our hope," she said.
Estimates
One worker estimated that the Middlefield plants had reached a high of around 2,800 workers and the Orwell plant around 1,000 last year. The company in October said it had eliminated 50 salaried positions, most of them in the KraftMaid headquarters in Middlefield.
The worker estimated that the company added about 600 workers about a year ago and most of the workers laid off this week had been with KraftMaid less than 14 months.
At a budget hearing the last week of December, David Zofko, Trumbull County's chief building official, told county commissioners that new housing starts in the county had dropped from 322 in 2005 to 221 in 2006, a drop of 46 percent. He said building additions and alterations were up 11 percent from 215 to 239.
KraftMaid is the world's largest build-to-order cabinet manufacturer. Masco Corp. is among the largest manufacturers in North America of brand-name home improvement and new construction products, the company's Web site says. In addition to KraftMaid, Masco makes Merillat, Mill's Pride and Quality Cabinets, employs about 62,000 people and, in 2005, had worldwide sales of more than 12.6 billion.
runyan@vindy.com

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