Andersen cuts more workers at Menomonie window plant

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 6, 2008 - 9:16 PM

In its fourth set of layoffs in two years, Andersen Corp. laid off 52 workers from its Menomonie, Wis., assembly plant Thursday because of the continuing collapse of the housing market and estimates that new home building will decline more next year.

Company officials told affected workers Thursday that it would be their last day and that they would receive two weeks of notification pay plus a severance package. The company declined to publicly discuss the severance terms.

Andersen has 22 manufacturing plants around the country. The Menomonie plant had 245 workers before the latest layoff announcement, which came about two weeks after the company said it would close its Durham, N.C., building materials plant in early December, displacing 450 workers. In January 2007, Andersen laid off 400 workers from its headquarters plant in Bayport and 40 more from the Menomonie plant.

No layoffs are expected at the company's massive Bayport operation in this round because its products are aimed at a different, higher-priced housing materials segment.

Andersen spokeswoman Maureen McDonough said that the "200 series" window and door products made in Menomonie were particularly vulnerable to industry setbacks. Because of their mid-level price points, they were popular among high-volume home builders.

"That is precisely the segment of the construction market that is hardest hit" by today's economic woes, McDonough said. "The housing industry is now in its third year of a dramatic decline," she added.

Home builders can't move the houses they've already built, so they're not building many more. New housing starts have declined from 2.2 million in 2005 to an expected 800,000 this year.

"That is a huge decline, and industry experts are forecasting a further decline of anywhere from 9 to 15 percent in 2009 for new construction," McDonough said. "What began a couple of years ago as a housing decline has in the last several weeks escalated into a global financial crisis."

Company officials noted that there is a strong risk of more loan defaults and home foreclosures, which would further delay a turnaround in the home-construction sector. They said layoffs are one way to protect Andersen's long-term viability.

GE Money, which finances consumer purchases of pricey home products such as windows and doors, furnaces, washing machines and cooling systems, recently tightened its underwriting guidelines for potential customers who have marginal credit histories, effectively sealing off credit for them.

The credit crisis and recession in the real estate industry have stung a number of area companies, including Select Comfort beds, pool and spa equipment maker Pentair, Ainsworth Lumber, Marvin Windows, Pella Windows and countertop maker Cambria.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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