LARGO — Tampa-based door manufacturer Masonite is eliminating 35 jobs and closing its factory in Largo amid a series of company-wide moves to cut costs and make its plants more efficient.
"We expect the closure of the Largo facility to be permanent," Masonite senior counsel Donald C. Tyler wrote in a layoff notice to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the city of Largo. "The closure is the result of the need to simplify our network of door plants to serve our customers more efficiently in an increasingly competitive market."
Masonite, which has operations on four continents, expects to continue to employ all workers at the plant, at 11200 69th St. N, through April 16. Jobs then will be phased out through the end of the year. The employees being laid off include machine operators, painters and other production staff.
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This week, Masonite, which is publicly traded, reported that net sales increased 7 percent to $2.17 billion during 2018, although president and chief executive officer Fred Lynch told analysts that business slowed in December.
"We experienced lighter-than-expected sales volumes across the businesses in the (fourth) quarter, primarily in our North American residential segment," he said on a conference call.
"While encouraged by what appears to be a rebound from an unusually slow December, we anticipate operating in a relatively flat environment for 2019," Lynch said, so "driving operating efficiency in the business" remains a top priority.
Several cost-cutting efforts late last year reduced total headcount across the organization by about 3 percent and U.S. overtime hours by more than 20 percent, Lynch said, followed by another 2 percent cut in U.S. headcount in January. By restructuring, consolidating or in a few cases moving its operations, plus divesting itself of several non-core European operations it had acquired, it expects to reduce its overall number of manufacturing plants by more than 10 percent.
Decisions to close plants and reduce staffing are difficult, Lynch said, and "taken after careful deliberation."
"Unfortunately, we're faced with an uncertain market and a rising cost environment," he said. "We know that our people are key to our success at Masonite, and we will as always treat impacted employees with dignity and respect as we go through these restructuring activities."
For the year, Masonite's earnings per share were $3.68, 34 cents more per share than in 2017.
In 2019, the company expects net sales to grow 3 to 5 percent and projects earnings of $3.60 to $4.40 per share. Masonite stock closed at $57.05 a share Wednesday, down less than 1 percent.
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times