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Stoughton Trailers plans to reopen Brodhead plant

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GINA R. HEINE
June 2, 2010
— Good news from Stoughton Trailers could mean good news for Brodhead.

The company plans to reopen its Brodhead plant by the end of 2010 or early next year, and new and laid-off workers are being hired.


“Brodhead is definitely in our plan to reopen,” said Patrice Gillespie, vice president of human resources.


The Stoughton-based trailer manufacturer is recalling all of its manufacturing workers who were employed with the company since 2007, she said. That includes its Brodhead employees, who will return to work first in Stoughton, she said.


Gillespie used the words “cautiously optimistic” as she described the plan to fill more than 300 jobs.


“It feels really, really good to be hiring rather than not,” she said.


The company issued “notifications of potential recall” to more than 500 laid-off employees in the last couple weeks, according to a news release. Stoughton Trailers is gradually ramping up its workforce as it increases production.


Stoughton Trailers is the fifth-largest truck trailer manufacturing company in North America. It has been locally owned and operated for nearly 50 years.


The trailer industry “kind of leads the country into recession,” usually about six months earlier than other industries feel the pain, Gillespie said. But the trailer industry emerges about six months earlier, too.


At the company’s lowest point in the recession, it had about 100 manufacturing workers, she said. That number is expected to be at 300 by the end of the month, up to 600 by the end of the year and possibly up to 1,000 by the end of 2011, she said.


Laid-off workers will not fill all of those positions, as Gillespie is finding that “not everybody’s coming back.” Some recall letters have been returned because people have moved, and Gillespie has heard from some workers who won’t return for a variety of reasons. The most common, she said, has been: “I’m in school.”


All jobs for new hires are advertised in jobsinmadison.com and through the Department of Workforce Development, according to the news release.


“We’re really pleased to see some positive movement here in the employment front,” said Anna Schramke, executive director of the Green County Development Corporation.


Brodhead, a city of a little more than 3,000 residents, has lost nearly 800 jobs at three major plants that closed or downsized in the last few years, according to information from Schramke.


Green County’s highest unemployment rate—10 percent—came in March, but the rate dropped to 8.3 percent in April, she said.


While Green County didn’t have as many plant closures as Rock County or Stephenson County, Ill., its unemployment rates were at record highs. That’s because unemployment is reported based on a person’s address, she said.


“That was a real eye-opener for people—to see we really are part of a regional economy,” she said.


Stoughton Trailers’ Evansville plant will remain closed, Gillespie said, and the building where more than 400 people used to make chassis and containers is still on the market to lease. The plant closed more than three years ago because the company couldn’t compete with overseas competition, Gillespie said. Selling the plant isn’t out of the question, though, she said.



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