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Posted May 12, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Employer will cut 47 workers during next three months

Company says there is overcapacity in facilities due to economic downturn

By James Heffernan — jheffernan@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE — Berryville Graphics will lay off 47 workers over the next three months in an effort to streamline operations and maintain its long-term viability, company officials said Monday.

Twenty-five positions will be cut when the local bookmaker’s digital printing department is shut down and the work transferred to its sister company, Offset Paperback Manufacturers, in Laflin, Pa.

During a telephone conference call Monday afternoon, Bob Robinson, president of Berryville Graphics, said there is overcapacity between the two facilities due to the economic downturn, and the Offset Paperback plant “has the ability to absorb the transfer as well as additional work in the future.”

Robinson said digital printing involves mostly “short runs” of one to 50 books per order.

An additional 22 workers employed in digital composition at the Clarke County plant will be let go as the company looks to outsource the work to third-party suppliers, according to Andy Meltzer, a spokesman with Berryville Graphics’ parent company, Bertelsmann Arvato AG, in Providence, R.I.

The Berryville facility’s primary operation involves more conventional book manufacturing, which Robinson said requires “a lot more people and equipment.” Berryville Graphics produces nearly 120 million books a year locally, according to its Web site.

The layoffs, which are permanent, were announced internally Monday morning, Robinson said. They will begin later this month and continue through the end of August.

The displaced workers will be offered severance packages based on their tenure with the company, officials said.

Berryville Graphics is the county’s largest employer, with a current work force of around 675. The company laid off 23 people in January, its first head-count reduction in more than 10 years.

“We wouldn’t be making these decisions if they weren’t absolutely critical for the balance of our employees and the future of Berryville Graphics,” Robinson said.

The layoffs are the latest round of bad economic news to hit Clarke County.

Cabinetmaker American Woodmark has said it will close its Berryville production facility by August, putting about 250 people out of work. The company also plans to close one of its plants in Moorefield, W.Va., and will suspend operations at its facility in Talequah, Okla., until market conditions improve. The decisions are in response to the prolonged housing slump, which has hampered both new construction and remodeling sales.

“It’s always very difficult for people who lose their jobs or when companies lose contracts,” said John Staelin, chairman of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. “It’s a tough time in the economy.”

The recession has hit the printing industry especially hard.

Commercial printer RR Donnelley saw a sales decline of nearly 15 percent in the first quarter as consumers cut back on purchases of books and magazines.

Donnelley’s Strasburg facility prints more than 200 publications, including Scientific American, Newsweek, The Economist and Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade.

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