STRASBURG — Following a Tuesday announcement that the local LSC Communications manufacturing facility will close, Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. said the town is doing its best to help nearly 400 people losing their jobs find other employment.
Staff from the town, county and state make regular visits to area facilities and businesses to help prevent downsizing, layoffs and closures where possible, said Director of Community Development Michelle Bixler.
Sometimes the town hears about upcoming closures while discussions are still taking place, but in the case of LSC, she said the town didn’t know about the closure until a decision had been made.
“Generally, that’s the norm,” she said. “However, there are still things that we can do.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership called in a Rapid Response team to work with the town, county and business to provide services during the transition in such ways as education, skills training and job hunting.
Rapid Response is a coordinated effort among multiple agencies, including the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, Virginia Employment Commission, community colleges, towns and counties as well as others, Bixler explained on Thursday.
“They generally have a lot of leads and are aware of companies within a 60-mile radius who are looking to fill positions,” Bixler told the council, “which is almost everyone right now.”
The town was engaged by the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board to ensure they’ll know where to direct people to find services locally.
Bixler said 384 LSC employees were told Tuesday they would lose their jobs. The national company also reported the upcoming closure of facilities in Glasgow, Kentucky, and Mattoon, Illinois.
She said on Thursday that Rapid Response and other local agencies are working to help the employees find “a path forward.” These methods might include a local job fair and assistance with resumes and job applications, she said.
LSC is one of several town businesses that announced they were closing in the last week.
On Monday, The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe posted a farewell video on its Facebook page.
“It is with great sadness today that I am announcing that we are officially closing the bakery,” owner Coleen McMains said in the video.
Cristina’s Cafe, at the west end of King Street, has announced its plans to close as of Sunday, short of any community aid or potential buyers.
“The want to remain open is there,” employee Gretchen Zunzer commented on a Facebook post by Strasburg business owner David Lassiter, announcing the upcoming closure. “The five employees here have put their heart and soul into it. Ive [sic] been notified that the owner will meet with prospective buyers. Good experienced employees to go with it.”
Lassiter, who owns E. Pearl’s on King Street, the main road through Strasburg that doubles as U.S. 11, said all the closures are a problem for a town that’s trying to grow.
“This will make our 12th vacant building on [the] main street,” he said. “We just keep losing and losing and losing.”
Remarking on the closures in a Thursday email, Bixler said they are part of the “ebb and flow of economic development” that all communities face.
“In the big picture, Strasburg is experiencing growth, and the numbers will continue to show that, but that doesn’t make it any easier on the individuals — our community members and friends — who are dealing with the closures,” she wrote. “We will continue to do everything we can to help those impacted, and we will continue to perform our proactive economic development tasks as well.”
Orndorff said he’s been in touch with large business facilities around the area to see about the job potential there.
The town’s Finance and Personnel Committee, which met only last week to discuss its plans for the year, is planning an emergency meeting in the next few days to discuss the financial implications that the LSC Communications closure could have on the town.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Vice Mayor Scott Terndrup praised Town Manager Wyatt Pearson and Director of Public Works Jay McKinley for their role in executing the town’s Gateway Trail project, which added a walking trail along U.S. 11 north of town.
“This has got to be the best-managed project that I’ve seen since I’ve been on council,” Terndrup said. “The entire scope of it was really well done, so congratulations to both of you.”
Following concerns about stormwater issues impeding the progress of the Gateway Trail effort, Pearson said he and McKinley convinced the Virginia Department of Transportation to pay its share of the stormwater improvements that fell out of the scope of the Gateway Trail project.
“Dealing with VDOT is difficult,” Terndrup said, “and I don’t know what magic words you used, but we as a public appreciate [it].”
Also mentioned at the meeting is that Strasburg recently finished the second phase of its Streetscape transportation project that made improvements to King and Massanutten streets. The project improvements are awaiting approval from the VDOT.