Community, employees react to RR Donnelley's decision to close plant

Company cites ‘changing market conditions’


Employees of RR Donnelley leave work at the end of the shift for the first time after hearing that the Jefferson City facility will close Oct. 1.

Employees of RR Donnelley leave work at the end of the shift for the first time after hearing that the Jefferson City facility will close Oct. 1. Photo by Julie Smith.

RR Donnelley, Jefferson City’s 12th largest employer, told its employees Thursday that the Jefferson City operations will be shut down later this year.

In notices to state and city officials, required by federal law, the company said 475 people will lose their jobs “during a 14-day period commencing on Oct. 1, 2013.”

The facility was established in Jefferson City in 1964, as a part of the Von Hoffmann Press company. RR Donnelley acquired the plant, 321 Wilson Drive, just south of Industrial Drive, in 2007 for $400 million.

The company specializes in printing and related business services, including print and digital publications. It has operations around the world, including other Missouri plants in Owensville and Liberty.

Calls to the Owensville and Liberty facilities indicated they are not affected by Thursday’s Jefferson City announcement. Repeated calls to the company’s corporate offices in Chicago for comments about the Jefferson City closing were not returned.

In February 2009, the company laid off approximately 200 employees in Jefferson City.

Longtime employees and family members of employees were shocked by the news. They asked that their names not be used in this story, for fear of possibly losing benefits.

“We knew something was coming, but it’s still hard to take,” said a 31-year veteran of the plant. “There were hints because things like parking lots not being paved and other things not being taken care of made you think something was coming down.”

But the wife of a 15-year Donnelley worker said they had been working overtime and on weekends, so they had not seen a cutback in production.

“He got the news in a mass meeting with the rest of the third-shift workers,” she said. “He was told the closing would be October 1st or sooner.

“We were shocked. We knew it would come someday, but didn’t know it would be this soon.”

The 1988 federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act generally requires companies with at least 100 employees to provide 60 days advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

In the WARN letters to Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph and to Cheri Tune, the state’s Rolla-based Regional Workforce coordinator, Donnelley’s human resources office said the plant closing was “due to changing market conditions.”

Randy Allen, president and CEO of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday: “We will do everything we can do to help.

“We will kick in along with Missouri Department of Economic Development and their rapid response team to work with employees on other opportunities.”

Amy Susan, the Economic Development department’s spokeswoman, said Thursday: “We are working very closely with the HR individuals at the company to establish an Employment Transition Team meeting, and we don’t have a date because we just learned about this today.”

The “Employment Transition Team” is a streamlined version of what the state used to call a “Rapid Response Team,” Susan said.

Allen said the situation might have at least one positive result.

“We have requests all the time from businesses that need rail access, and we currently don’t have those,” he explained.

But, with Donnelley’s closing plans, “We now have something to market, if they follow through with the closing.”

The plant has a rail spur that is serviced by Union Pacific Railroad.

“This is not unusual in the corporate environment,” Allen said. “We talk to them all the time.

“Just a couple of months ago, the leaders of the local Donnelley plant were saying how contracts were looking good.”

In 2011, the company invested $6 million in the Owensville operations, with more than 100 jobs being generated.

At that time, RR Donnelley company officials said the expansion was prompted by substantial growth in the educational and health care markets.

The Owensville plant produces textbooks and workbooks for elementary and secondary education; educational testing manuals; trade books; business-to-business catalogs; health care manuals; and federal and state government publications.

As of 2011, the company reported their Jefferson City operation provided print services, photography, digital asset management and logistics.

“These are good-paying jobs,” Allen said. “I believe it’s about $20 an hour, plus benefits,” Allen said. “Even with two months notice, there will have to be some cleanup, so I don’t think there is any way they’ll be able to get all the plant shut down — so some workers will be on past the two months notice.”

Allen said the plant covers 700,000 square feet and might be the largest manufacturing facility in Jefferson City.

Earlier this year, Donnelley announced plant closings in Ohio, affecting more than 200 employees, and an operation in Green Bay also was shuttered.

Company officials cited changing market conditions as the reason for those closures, as well.

Jefferson City’s state senator and two state representatives issued a joint statement of their disappointment in Donnelley’s decision.

“We will join Cole County, Jefferson City, the Jefferson City chamber and others to determine if RR Donnelley can be persuaded to remain in Jefferson City,” Sen. Mike Kehoe and Reps. Jay Barnes and Mike Bernskoetter — all Republicans — said.

“If not, we will ensure that state and local job-training and employment services are prepared to assist affected employees who are not ready to retire.”

Editor's note: The above story updates and expands upon a previous version of this story posted Thursday.

Accompanying article:

RR Donnelley’s quarterly report exceeded expectations

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments