A Greenville manufacturing plant has announced it is closing its doors by January 2023, taking with it 475 jobs.
DENSO Manufacturing, which makes small engines for windshield wipers, electric windows and other car parts, told local economic development officials on Jan. 18 that layoffs will take place later this year. For much of its time in Greenville the company was called ASMO.
Employees, who commute to the plant from Greenville and other communities in the region, were informed on Tuesday of the impending shutdown to give them time to figure out their plans.
“Pretty surprised to get the call yesterday that DENSO had decided to close their Greenville manufacturing operation,” Brad Hufford, vice president of business development for the Greenville-ENC Alliance said on Wednesday.
“They were notifying employees yesterday and indicated there would not be any direct impacts as far as layoffs until the July-August time frame.”
Since 2019, DENSO’s parent company has been reorganizing Hufford said. He believes that the decision to shut down its Greenville plant is a result of corporate streamlining. The company said in a statement later that the closure was part of an effort optimize its North American manufacturing operations.
“While DENSO continues to develop and manufacture a range of small motors, we will consolidate small motor products to suitable DENSO locations that can support multi-product business to remain efficient and meet customer needs,” the statement said. “Greenville employees will have the opportunity to pursue open positions at other DENSO facilities across North America. Other employees will be offered competitive severance packages and support as they transition to new opportunities.”
Hufford said the company plans to aid employees as much as possible with finding jobs within the company. The closest manufacturing plant is in Statesville.
“Our primary concern right now is with those workers,” Hufford said. “Whenever there is a closure like this the N.C. Department of Commerce requires companies to issue what is called a Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) letter, and that letter goes out to notify government but also workforce development partners through the Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions.”
The WARN letter helps the company and economic impact partners such as the Rivers East Workforce Development Board identify workers being impacted and provide them with direct assistance, either by locating job assistance or providing aid for retraining. That could include financial assistance at a community college.
According to Andrew Beale, communications manager for the N.C. Division of Workforce Solutions, DENSO had not to filed a WARN letter on Wednesday. The Department of Commerce’s website says that a WARN letter is required upon the closure of a plant that affects at least 50 employees during any 30-day period, as well as when conducting a mass layoff of between 50 and 499 employees when that number represents at least a third of the employer’s workforce.
At this early stage of the announcement, ENC Alliance does not have direct monetary figures on how the 475 jobs lost will affect the economy. Hufford emphasized that Greenville’s economy is still robust and that skilled manufacturing workers should have no shortage of opportunities.
“The folks at DENSO working there have great skills and great experience in the manufacturing environment,” Hufford said. “They will just need to be re-placed into new opportunities and get trained up into their protocols.”
ENC Alliance, which owns Indigreen Corporate Park, where the plant is located, will help DENSO with the sale of the building and locating new business to occupy it at a later date.
Bridgette LaRose, manager of Corporate Communications for DENSO, relayed the statement on behalf of the company but had no further comment.
The Japanese-owned facility opened as ASMO Greenville in 1995. It was honored by the Pitt County Development Commission as industry of the year in 2005.
With a workforce as high as 900, the company and its employees have been integral to the community with their support of charities like the United Way, Red Cross, March of Dimes and Children’s Miracle Network.
A core management group also brought cultural connections to their homes in Japan, including local school programs and exchanges like Greenville’s International Festival.
DENSO in 2013 began a $50 million expansion that included an eight-year incentive agreement with Pitt County to add 200 jobs. The county paid the company more than $187,000 annually.