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Hunter Douglas closes Pinellas Park plant, lays off 191 workers

Custom window treatments maker Hunter Douglas Fabrication Co. is closing its long-standing plant inside Pinellas Park's Gateway Center, laying off 191 workers.

The company told local employees about the shutdown Tuesday, the same day it filed a WARN notice (worker adjustment and retraining notification), a required report to the state for mass layoffs and plant closings.

The news marks the third major corporate pullout from the Tampa Bay area announced this month. Spring Air Co. earlier closed its Tampa plant and headquarters, idling 157 workers, while Continental Airlines said it will shutter its Tampa reservations center, forcing 685 employees into other jobs in the company or out of work.

Hunter Douglas said the work at the Pinellas Park facility will be gradually transferred by Oct. 1 to "new state-of-the-art" plants in Cumberland, Md.; Salt Lake City; and West Sacramento, Calif.

"This has been planned for more than three years and is part of the company's long-term strategy to improve manufacturing efficiencies and effectiveness and provide world-class service and quality," a company statement read.

Hunter Douglas spokesman Sarah Fletcher said some workers will be offered a transfer.

"It's not for every single person, and it partly depends on market conditions," she said.

The 144,000-square-foot plant at 3001 Gateway Center Parkway has produced window shades and blinds for 12 years, but it has limited room for expansion, Fletcher said.

During the housing boom and related surge in home improvement projects, demand was brisk.

Now Hunter Douglas calls itself the only window covering company in the country still investing heavily in manufacturing. It built a 208,000-square-foot West Sacramento plant in 2008, opened a 241,150-square-foot Salt Lake City plant in 2007 and expanded its Maryland plant by 118,000 square feet three years ago.

A 90-year-old operation headquartered in The Netherlands, Hunter Douglas is in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Australia. From its North American headquarters in Upper Saddle River, N.J., it operates more than 40 facilities and 7,000 employees throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at (727) 893-8242 or jharrington@sptimes.com.

Hunter Douglas closes Pinellas Park plant, lays off 191 workers 05/26/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 10:48am]
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