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LSC Communications closing Kendallville, Indiana plant, 307 job losses expected
KENDALLVILLE, Indiana (From news reports -- One of Kendallville's biggest industrial firms is shutting down, closing one of its two facilities in the city costing more than 300 employees their jobs.

LSC Communications, formerly known as Courier Kendallville, was adding multi-million-dollar expansions to the city as soon as three years ago. Now, the plant is expected to permanently close, with employee terminations starting on Oct. 1 and expected to be completed just before Christmas.

The closure will affect 307 employees.

"Due to the continued deterioration of market conditions, LSC Communications US, LLC has decided to permanently close its facility located at 2500 Marion Drive, Kendallville IN. NOTE: This closure does not impact the LSC facility at 3094 Lester Drive," said a company WARN notice filed with the state Wednesday from LSC Vice President of Human Resources Rebecca Robertson.

The Marion Drive plant is the company's physical book publisher, while the Lester Drive is a digital production and warehouse facility.

"Consistent with these plans, employment separations are expected to commence starting October 1, 2020. The closure will be permanent, and all employees, approximately 307 people, will be affected," the notice states.

"At this time, the Company anticipates that all employees will be permanently separated from employment with the Company by December 23, 2020," the WARN notice states.

The company filing lists close to 50 different job titles that will all be terminated, including bindery material handlers and operators, maintenance technicians, press operators, quality inspectors, shipping and receiving clerks, forklift operators and business office staff.

Mayor Suzanne Handshoe called the loss of the plant a "big blow," and noted that the job losses are all expected before the end of the year.

"This really took us by surprise, and then we did a little research on LSC and saw they filed for Chapter 11 in April," Handshoe said. "Three-hudred-seven people losing their job. ... I'm sorry for these people."

Because employees will be rapidly let go before the end of the year, Handshoe said she's already been on the phone trying to arrange for job fairs and skills training to help as many employees as possible get slotted into new jobs.

"We're going to do our best to, I've made several phone calls to put a job fair together there if it's allowed, or at the (Community Learning Center)," Handshoe said, with local agencies ready to provide retraining for people who may need to pick up new skills to fit new positions.

Although local unemployment is up recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the downturn this spring, local firms were hungry to find new employees and often unable to due to a drained workforce. Even though jobless rates are a little higher, Handshoe said she's still seeing a lot of help wanted signs around the city, so connecting displaced employees with new positions in Kendallville or the surrounding region could potentially also happen quickly.

LSC Communications has been one of Kendallville's most big-dollar industrial firms, adding numerous pieces of equipment to its plants over the years.

What started as a small firm with fewer than 100 employees in the 1990s, Courier grew to one of Noble County's largest employers and held the distinction of Kendallville's largest employer, with a staff of more than 700 at its peak.

The company was known for huge investments in its local plants, often receiving 10-year tax abatements from the city to defray the cost, including some that were not phased-in but were full, 100% abatements for the entire decade.

In December 2007, Courier added $25 million of new equipment to its Kendallville plant.

In April 2009, Courier consolidated its warehouses by opening an $11.6 million, 200,000-square-foot warehousing operation. At the time, Courier officials announced the warehouse was part of a five-year, $30 million expansion in Kendallville that would create 100-175 jobs.

In 2010, the company announced another $17 million expansion. The company brought in $13 million in equipment and upgrades to its Lester Drive facility in 2013.

In 2017, the company was adding more than $9 million in equipment at its Marion Drive plant.

But the book publishing industry has been through rough changes in the digital age and Chicago-based LSC Communications called off a more than $1 billion merger plan with rival printing firm Quad/Graphics and then went on to file bankruptcy in April this year.

The company was the only firm in the city to ever get a strict 100% abatement for a full ten years -- most start out at 100% in their first year then are phased down so companies pay a little more in taxes every year until they are paying full at the end of the break -- and it's a tool city officials said they don't expect to ever utilize unless the city is faced with another gigantic opportunity like it had with Courier back in the day.

Although the company has received a lot of government incentives to help it grow over the years and the city missed out on substantial property taxes during those times, Handshoe said Tuesday the investment was still worth it for the good jobs the company brought and the property taxes it has paid over the years.

"It's a $23 million payroll for their employees. ... They've got quite the history here and in the early 2000s we did help them grow and expand to the point of that facility they're closing is landlocked so they decided to expand to Lester Drive," Handshoe said. "Those were good jobs, well-paying jobs."

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