Lydall To Close Vermont Plant, Lay Off 190

Producer of heat shields for cars blamed the closure on a downturn in the domestic car market.

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) -- Lydall Inc., one of St. Johnsbury's largest employers, is closing its plant and laying off 190 workers.

The Connecticut-based company, which produces heat shields for cars at its Vermont manufacturing plant, blamed the move on a downturn in the domestic car market. The company plans to move the operations to its North Carolina facility late next year.

"The reason we're doing this is to cut costs and reduce fixed overhead," said Tom Smith, chief financial officer. "When we looked at the possibility of moving the St. Johnsbury operation down to (North Carolina), the economics were just better."

The affected workers were notified Tuesday. It's unknown when the layoffs will take place, said Smith.

Some Vermont employees may have a chance to relocate to the company's Hamptonville, N.C., plant, where 100 jobs have opened up due to the consolidation, he said.

State and local officials said Tuesday's announcement is one the biggest layoff to hit the area in some time.

Labor Commissioner Patricia Moulton Powden, said the state will meet with employees to help them file for unemployment, apply for subsidized health insurance and get new jobs.

"We try to do that fairly quickly so we can manage folks' anxiety about losing their jobs," Moulton Powden said.

The plant closing will have a significant short-term impact on the economy but is not a harbinger of the future, said Mike Quinn, commissioner of the Department of Economic Development.

"I don't think you can draw conclusions about doing business in Vermont because of Lydall's decision," he said. "They had to make some basic business decisions about where they could operate most efficiently, and regrettably for us they chose North Carolina."

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