WATSEKA – It looks as though time has run out for the Lifetime Doors facility in Watseka.
The facility, which manufactured wood interior doors for 35 years, is slated to close Dec. 31, putting 61 people out of work, according to James Mitchell, vice president/administration for the Farmington Hills, Mich.-based company.
The closing comes as the result of Tampa, Fla-based Masonite Inc. buying Lifetime's assets and deciding to shutter five of its six plants, he said.
Lifetime Doors, privately held since 1947, opened the Watseka facility in 1975 to serve the Great Lakes region.
The company sold doors to do-it-yourself chains, including Menards, which was "heavily involved" with the Watseka facility, Mitchell said.
Some employees have already been released, but all employees will be paid through Dec. 31, in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, Mitchell said.
"We're downsizing the work force week by week as we transition work into other facilities," said Mike Fout, vice president of Masonite's interior division.
Masonite purchased the assets of Lifetime Doors on Oct. 7. It decided to close Lifetime facilities in Watseka; Easton, Pa.; Hearne, Texas; Los Banos, Calif., and Sacramento, Calif. Only a plant in Denmark, S.C., was spared.
Fout said Masonite has a plant in Walkerton, Ind., that makes the same products as the Watseka plant and is "a little more than twice its size."
The Walkerton facility is "logistically located better for some of our main customers," Fout said. Plus, "there's a larger capital investment in that facility, as far as equipment is concerned."
Fout said Masonite is hiring in Walkerton, but he wasn't sure how many, if any, employees from Watseka had applied for jobs there. He did say Vickie Jessie, a customer service manager in Watseka, has been retained.
As for the five plants that are closing, Fout said, plans are to "button up and secure them for now, then look for the things we need to do to prepare the sites for sale."
Lifetime Doors was founded in 1947 in Livonia, Mich., by William Gilbert.
Its president, John Hauss, will remain with Masonite in "a senior advisory role," and a few key people in sales will also be retained, according to a Masonite press release.
Fout said Lifetime Doors was an attractive acquisition because "the customer base was very loyal and it provided a high-quality product similar to the lines Masonite provides."
The Lifetime Doors acquisition was Masonite's fifth of the year. Last spring Masonite acquired Ledco, an interior door manufacturer.
It also purchased three companies expected to help build Masonite's market in India.