Salem business has new owner, uncertain future

By Burton Speakman


Former Miller-Holzwarth workers who hoped that today’s auction would shed some light on the business’s future will be disappointed.

Optex Systems Inc., of Richardson, Texas, was the winning bidder at $750,000, but a representative of the company declined to provide any information about the company’s plans for the business. Optex makes items such as sights, periscopes and ship binoculars for the military, according to its website.

It took about 30 minutes for the bidding to go from the $500,000 minimum to the final figure. Four of the five companies registered their bids remotely. Each bid at least once during the process.

Salem Mayor John Berlin said he had been told that at least one of the companies bidding intended to reopen the Salem facility, but he was not familiar with Optex.

“I shared with the receiver the features and benefits of operating a business in Salem, including taxes and abatements available,” he said.

A lot of workers have been waiting to hear what is going to happen with the plant, Berlin said. If it remains closed, it’s possible a number of the workers will have to move from the city, he added.

“Hopefully this company will understand the decades of experience of the employees,” he said. “They have a lot of skill. It isn’t just bending Plexiglas.”

It appears that Optex “got a pretty good deal” on the site,” Berlin said. The city had estimated that Miller-Holzwarth, including the building and equipment, was worth around $3.8 million.

Miller-Holzwarth manufactured components for armored combat vehicles for more than 35 years. It built periscopes, vision blocks, ballistic windows, transparent armor and specialty mechanical components.

The company’s products can be found on the humvee, the Bradley armored fighting vehicle, armored personnel carriers and numerous other combat vehicles. Optex makes similar products for these vehicles as well.

The plant closed July 30, 2012, when employees were told the business would close at the end of the day. There had been no warning about the closing. In August, the company was ordered to pay $1.5 million to Noratec, another defense procurement contractor, stemming from an arbitration agreement the businesses entered in 2009.

Lisa Barbacci, receiver for the auction, said $1 million already has been paid by the former Miller-Holzwarth owners to Noratec.

Ron Towne, the attorney representing Noratec, said the company would apply to receive additional funding beyond the $500,000 still owed to the company to pay legal expenses.

Any remaining money will go to other creditors of Miller-Holzwarth’s.

The city of Salem stands to lose between $25,000 and $35,000 a year if Miller- Holzwarth remains closed, according to a previous statement from Berlin.

The estimates were based on Miller-Holzwarth’s having 80 employees.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.