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Irwin Tools to close, with loss of 80 jobs

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GREENFIELD — Approximately 80 full-time jobs will be lost this July in Hancock County when the Irwin Tools distribution center closes.

Irwin Tools, a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid Co. of Atlanta, advised state and local authorities it would begin winding down operations at its Mt. Comfort-area facility with layoffs to begin on July 18, according to the company’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice.

The company filed its notice last week and had begun notifying affected employees in March.

Irwin’s building is at 6719 W. CR 350N.

“This was a difficult decision to make, but it is a necessary step to ensure we continue to compete effectively in a global economy,” said company spokeswoman Hannah Van Malssen in an email. “We understand the impact these changes will have on our employees, their families and the Greenfield community, and this is no reflection on the hard work and dedication of the Greenfield employees.”

The company is consolidating distribution operations nationally, and work done at the Greenfield facility is being transferred to an existing distribution center in the Atlanta metro area.

“We simply have more warehouse capacity than we need, and consolidating Greenfield into the much larger Atlanta facility will increase efficiency and improve customer service,” Van Malssen wrote.

Skip Kuker, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, said the news was disappointing, but he was optimistic about the employees’ futures.

“Of course we’re disappointed to see that happening in our community,” Kuker said. “But we’re working closely with (Indiana Department of) Workforce Development and the great job it does with its job fair, and a local company has extended an invitation, so hopefully they can find employment very quickly.”

Kuker said the county’s low unemployment rate – 5.3 percent at last count – and continued interest in Hancock County by site selectors for new plants are positive factors for those affected by the layoffs.

In the interim, the company is providing resume, interviewing and networking assistance, and once the layoffs go into effect, Irwin will provide supplemental unemployment pay based on years of service to make up the difference between unemployment insurance and current wages, Van Malssen said.

In addition to the human impact of the lost jobs, the closure of the warehouse will also have significant consequences on the vacancy rate for warehouse space in the Mt. Comfort area.

 “The site is some of the newer industrial square footage that we have in that area,” Kuker said, “so we’ll be working to get that back into service.”

Kuker said he was optimistic another tenant could be found for the space as there has been substantial interest from enterprises outside the county looking to locate here.

Irwin Tools was established in 1885 and went on to develop a product portfolio that includes Vise-Grip, Marathon saw blades and Unibit. In 2002, Newell Rubbermaid acquired Irwin’s parent company American Tool, according to the company’s website.

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