As the LSC Communications manufacturing facility in Strasburg has shut its doors, local officials continue to ponder what exactly is next.
The printing company announced in mid-January that it was shutting down the Strasburg facility in addition to plants in Glasgow, Kentucky, and Mattoon, Illinois, to “strengthen the company’s manufacturing platform by reducing costs and improving utilization across LSC production facilities,” the company said.
LSC terminated a merger with Quad/Graphics, too, and that brought the total number of closures to eight facilities and a reduction of about 2,500 employees.
On top of that, LSC was preparing last week to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after failed efforts to restructure its nearly $1 billion of debt, according to Bloomberg.
Doors at the LSC facility closed Friday in Strasburg, with a few people left to help tear things down.
The last known figure for employee numbers at LSC prior to the shutdown announcement was 384, according to the Shenandoah County Economic Development department.
Strasburg Mayor Rich Orndorff Jr. said he is certain about 70 of the LSC employees lived in Strasburg with many more living in the surrounding areas.
“Our first and major concern was to do what we could do as a community and as town was the displaced workers,” Orndorff said Wednesday. “I will say that in speaking with some of the employees — some of them long-term employees that I’ve known personally — I think that they thought LSC was treating its employees relatively well in the form of severance and assisting them. And I know that LSC had done some job fairs and had some other folks in from other plants within their company to possibly recruit some of the workers.”
Michelle Bixler, director of community development for the Town of Strasburg, said many of the employees at LSC attended job fairs, which included regional employers. Some more were scheduled, but were postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Data regarding LSC employees led local officials to continue finding options for displaced workers.
According to Bixler, the data showed that 95% of workers surveyed there planned to seek reemployment elsewhere. Within that, 60% of those who were to seek reemployment said they would not seek the same line of work and 92% said they would be willing to commit to training that would assist in future employment.
Eighty-nine percent of those interviewed said they would be willing to attend a job fair or hiring event. Of those interested, 56% said they wanted to learn more about medical care/health insurance, 28% wanted more information of educational financial aid, 20% wanted help with financial planning and 17% were interested in services related to starting their own business. Other areas of interest were food stamps/social services (15%) and stress management counseling (14%).
Data also showed that 44% of the workers surveyed were the primary earners in their household.
“I personally had contact with some of the larger businesses in the region and they were interested in contacting some of the workers,” Orndorff said. “There was a concerted effort, and I’m very pleased with what our community, our staff and the state were doing. Those efforts were ongoing, but with the coronavirus shutdown, I’m sure a lot of scheduling of things have been affected.”
Orndorff and Bixell said the situation is still fluid with everything going on now, but that they hoped efforts would continue when travel bans and quarantines were lifted.
Financially, the town took a hit with the closure. It will cost the town more than $41,000 in lost water and sewer revenue this year, and more than $146,000 in lost revenue next fiscal year, Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said previously.
The fiscal year 2021 projection includes a $22,221 loss in machinery and tools tax that the facility would have paid the town. Current budget numbers will be felt in the water and sewer fund, but the 2021 budget will feel it in the town’s general fund.
“It will have some impact, but as always it will affect next year’s budget, the one we’re preparing and working on right now,” Orndorff said. “That was a concern. We’d looked at ways to really mitigate how much impact that would have. But now with the coronavirus and the shutdown, we’re going to have some other revenue challenges.”
The Town Council has a virtual work session scheduled for Monday, when the budget and things like the LSC closure will be discussed, the mayor said.
Beyond the impacts felt by citizens and the town, a third piece in the puzzle is what to do with the building.
The large facility at the corner of Front Royal Road and Shenandoah Valley Drive soon will be vacant.
Orndorff said the town will soon discuss what most officials have already begun thinking about: what’s next?
“It’s one of the entrances to the town, and we’re not interested in seeing a large facility sit vacant or go into disrepair or become overgrown,” he said. “We’d very much like to work with the owners of the property to market that. That would be a two-prong approach: It would keep the building in use but it would also give us the opportunity to draw another manufacturer to the area and provide more jobs.”