Richburg fabric plant to close, cut 50 jobs

RICHBURG -- F. Schumacher & Co. will close its distribution center in Richburg and lay off about 50 workers, the company announced this week, dealing another blow to Chester County's jobless rate.

Plant employees were told Tuesday that layoffs will begin in December, said Gail Maddox, vice president of human resources. By March 2008, the plant will close permanently, she said, and its dwindling operations will be moved to the company's Newark, Del., headquarters.

"These kind of business decisions are so difficult to make because we've been very visible in the community for so long," said Maddox, who delivered the somber news to workers during a plant meeting. "It's sad for everyone."

Schumacher's Richburg plant, in operation since 1990, packages and distributes fabrics and wall coverings. At its height in the 1990s, it employed nearly 500 people, Maddox said. The company has since sold its line of wallpaper products and no longer needs the 500,000-square-foot operation in Chester County, Maddox said.

The decision to close the plant follows a string of layoffs for the company, including about 30 jobs cut this spring. Employees will receive severance packages and job- placement assistance, Maddox said.

"We'll continue to do everything we can to make sure our employees land on their feet," Maddox said. "Anyone who is willing to relocate -- we're open to all possibilities."

Programs available

Zach Booker, assistant director of the S.C. Employment Security Commission office in Chester, said programs are available for laid-off workers who need help finding a new job. He said many workers are encouraged to enroll in free programs that help them go back to school and receive more job training.

"The programs are arranged so all they have to do is show up," he said.

The plant closing comes just six weeks after Springs Global's announcement to close its Fort Lawn and Lancaster County plants, axing about 750 jobs. A third of those jobs were held by Chester County residents.

Prior to the summer layoffs, unemployment data in the county ranked Chester second worst in the state with a 10.6 percent jobless rate, according to the S.C. Employment Security Commission.