Perfect Fit never met requirements, officials say
One year after promising new jobs and soliciting economic incentives from the city and county, mattress company Perfect Fit will cut workers. The company filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification with the North Carolina Department of Commerce Monday, July 18, announcing plans to lay off 123 workers.
“This caught us by surprise,” Monroe assistant economic director Ron Mahle said. “This is a hard pill to swallow, because the bottom line is we’re trying to create and keep jobs here.”
The layoffs will take effect September 1.
Mahle said there hadn’t been any communication with the company prior to receiving the notice from the state on Monday. The termination leaves an estimated 65 workers at the Monroe plant, Mahle said.
That’s fewer workers than last year, when the company came before city and county officials, asking for incentives to relocate a majority of their production to the Monroe facility. The city offered a $31,740 tax incentive, while the county commissioners approved an additional $19,557. None of that money actually made it to Perfect Fit however, as the company never met any of the requirements officials had laid out.
In addition to the lost jobs, the announcement left a bitter taste for some Union County officials. In August 2010, Perfect Fit came to the county, announcing they were deciding to consolidate business either in Indiana or Monroe, hoping to establish a bidding war. The company had decided days before speaking with city and county officials to close the Indiana plant, however, detailed in public records at the time. Perfect Fit Director of Human Resources Dexter Royal notified the Indiana workforce development board Aug. 6 of the company’s plans to close, nearly two weeks before the group came to Union County and said things were in open competition between Union and Indiana.
When Union County approved the incentives, there were just over 80 workers at the Monroe facility. Perfect Fit officials promised to add 50 more workers, bring in $1.45 million in new equipment and relocate an additional $1.178 million in equipment to Union County by Dec. 31, 2011. Also, the company agreed not to terminate any of the workers already employed at that time.
“With the downsizing, Perfect Fit doesn’t qualify for any incentives,” Mahle said. “They were required to meet certain investment goals and retain their workforce. They didn’t keep those promises.”
Mahle said nothing was paid to Perfect Fit from the city.
County public information officer Brett Vines echoed Mahle’s response, saying the county hadn’t paid a dime to Perfect Fit. Only after the requirements had been met, would the company be eligible for a payment, in May 2013. With the termination of so many workers, falling below even the original counts for the plan, the company lost those incentive opportunities.
“Simply put, I think somebody dropped the ball,” Union County Commissioner Jonathan Thomas said. The announcement of layoffs was a tremendous frustration, Thomas said, especially after both the county and city put forward incentive packages to keep those jobs in Union.
“Either Perfect Fit was not forthright or someone missed something,” Thomas said, adding that he wasn’t interested in pointing fingers, but rather wanted to make sure such a situation didn’t happen in the future.
“It’s easy to point fingers and find someone to blame,” Thomas said. “Instead, our focus should be on taking care of these workers and finding jobs to replace the ones lost.”
Mahle said the city had been working closely with the Governor’s Rapid Response Team, to help those who will lose their jobs in September.
“We’ll be working with the Employment Security Commission, with South Piedmont Community College, to make sure all 123 workers have access to information and retraining if necessary, to land another job,” Mahle said.
Overall, Mahle said he also didn’t see anyone to blame for the layoffs, instead saying it was a symptom of a much larger problem in the manufacturing field.
“I think this is a result of some of the realities of the global market in the textile sector,” Mahle said. “All in all, manufacturing is recovering in Monroe. We’ve seen 500 new manufacturing jobs in the last 12 months. But with the way things are right now, we also have days like this.”
Perfect Fit officials did not return phone calls by presstime.