NORTH ADAMS -- Almost three years after Crane & Co. announced plans that it would move its stationery paper division to Dalton, the company has announced that it is now in the process of consolidating the operations in the city at the Hardman Industrial Park.
The move, which will consolidate four sites into a single location, will eliminate 55 of the division's 268 jobs.
"The stationery market has changed substantially over the past five years," Crane CEO Stephen P. DeFalco said in a press release Wednesday. "The changes that we are making to our product and our operations will position the Stationery Division to be more competitive and relevant to today's consumer."
The paper company has already transitioned the sales staff and marketing and customer service teams from its Downing Industrial Park plant in Pittsfield to the city. Employees from the division's box stationery department in Dalton and the stationery fulfillment department will be transitioned to the city, along with machinery and technology, by the end of the first fiscal quarter in March 2013.
According to Peter Hopkins, a spokesman for Crane, the company is offering a voluntary severance package for qualified employees, along with the opportunity for employees to take jobs in one of its other divisions -- nonwovens or currency.
"We've known that these changes were going to happen for a certain amount of time," he said. "We've held off hiring in two
Hopkins added: "We're also offering two types of severance packages, one of which is voluntary. The voluntary severance option is for employees who are close to retirement or have a lifestyle reason which led them to take this incentive. It is based on time employed at Crane. We expect about 20 employees to take this option and another 20 to fill openings in the other two divisions."
Depending on the number taking the voluntary severance packages and those moving to other divisions, he said it is expected that between 15 to 20 employees will be laid off.
"They will be offered the same type of severance package as those taking the voluntary severance package, plus outplacement services," Hopkins said. "We want to help ease the very difficult transition as they find a position elsewhere."
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Wednesday that while the company will initially reduce its staff by 55 employees, the reorganization will, over time, allow the division to continue operating.
"This reorganization will be stressful for some individuals, but it's a long-term solution to Crane's continued existence in North Adams," he said. "I spoke with [Crane Vice President] Doug Crane about the move earlier today. Just over two and a half years ago, we weren't going to have Crane located in the city anymore and the building [at the Hardman Industrial Park] would have become an empty shell. Now it is going to be the hub for its stationery division."
Hopkins said that while Crane originally announced plans in November 2009 to consolidate the division into a new state-of-the-art facility in Dalton by 2011, the company took the last few years to "really study the whole consolidation process."
"They did look at a building in Pittsfield and were really close to pulling the trigger on a building in Dalton, but as it turned out, the study showed the Hardman Industrial Park plant as being the most successful choice," he said. "Consolidating the plants just makes sense. It's a situation where operations were spread out over several facilities and stretched quite a few miles apart. It just makes much more sense, from a production standpoint, to have the entire division in the same building or as close by as you can."