By Melissa Dunson
LAMAR, Mo. — Officials with O’Sullivan Industries say they still don’t know exactly when the doors will close at Lamar’s largest employer, but the date appears to be closer to July than October.
Roland Geddie, general counsel for O’Sullivan, said company officials aren’t sure when the shutdown will be complete, but the plant that employed 1,700 people at its peak is now down to 486 employees. The plant had 735 employees when the company announced the closing in April.
When that announcement was made, O’Sullivan officials said the doors would close possibly as early as July but no later than October.
Geddie said he thinks the actual date will be much closer to July.
Lynn Calton, Lamar city administrator, said the city needs to find out in the next couple of weeks when the plant will close because O’Sullivan is still hooked up to city-run utilities. Calton said his understanding is that the plant will close by the end of July.
Sauder Woodworking Co., based in Ohio, bought O’Sullivan’s intellectual property, including designs and brand name.
Calton said Wachovia Bank holds the mortgage for the 1 million-square-foot Lamar plant and has hired an out-of-state company to find a tenant or tenants. Calton said he hopes the building will be filled by one large operation, but the property could be divided up for smaller manufacturers.
He said Wachovia is working with the city to market the building, and the city is working with the Missouri Department of Economic Development to get the word out.
“It’s like going fishing. You might catch a big one, you might catch a little one, or you might not catch anything at all,” Calton said. “Where we are right now is we’ve got the fishing pole in the water, and we’re waiting.”
With O’Sullivan’s work force in Lamar below 500, Calton said many former employees have found other work in the region. The response from area employers has been overwhelming, he said, but many former O’Sullivan employees are having to drive to Southeast Kansas, Northeast Oklahoma and the Joplin area.
“These people still have homes here, so we hope if we can get another industry in here pretty soon, we’ll still have a work force in the area,” Calton said.
Jasen Jones, executive director of the WorkforceJim Moss 6/19/07 stet Investment Board of Southwest Missouri, continues organizing informational meetings and job fairs for O’Sullivan employees. The board recently had a “transitions fair” in Lamar for employees who are interested in changing vocations. Jones said more than 200 current and former O’Sullivan employees attended. He said another career fair is coming up for those who want to stay in manufacturing.
The career fair scheduled for next week will feature more than 24 companies from across the region, including Contract Freighters Inc., Leggett & Platt Inc., staffing agencies Adecco and PenMac Personnel, and the new AT&T; call center being built in Joplin, as well as manufacturers from Northeast Oklahoma and Southeast Kansas.
“This (hiring fair) should be strong as well,” Jones said. “We’re looking for a good response.”
Jones said O’Sullivan’s work force is especially valuable because of the number of longtime employees.
“It’s an extremely loyal and skilled work force, and we’re really promoting that to the employers,” he said. “They’re pretty excited about it.”
Melissa Dunson is the business writer for The Joplin Globe.
The Missouri Career Center will have a hiring fair for displaced O’Sullivan Industries employees from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at Memorial Hall in Lamar. For more information, people may contact the Career Center at (417) 629-3000 or go online to www.workforcezone.org.
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