A Selma auto-parts manufacturer has shut down, putting nearly 200 people out of work.
Sona BLW Precision Forge, which closed Aug. 19, was part of Sona BLW, a company with operations in India, Germany and the United States. The company makes parts for vehicles and machinery, including gears and axles. Its Selma plant was the company’s only U.S. operation.
The Selma plant, in Oak Tree Business Park, was scheduled to close Sept. 18 but ran out of money sooner than expected, Todd Downie, company president, said in a statement released the day the plant closed.
The move left 196 people out of work.
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“We appreciate their loyal service, and every employee has been paid in full as of today,” Downie said in the statement.
Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver said the town had notified agencies to help displaced workers find jobs.
“I’m still hopeful that there may be an investor who will choose to continue the business or something similar,” Oliver said. “We need to let the dust settle a bit. I think job one has been trying to do right by the employees to make sure they know about all the opportunities that are available to them.”
Those opportunities include assistance from the Johnston County Workforce Development Center in Clayton, the Employment Security Commission office in Smithfield and the Capital Area Workforce Development Center.
“I feel like we’re getting them connected to the right places, and we’re keeping their contact information in case an investor should show up on the scene, and maybe they can come back to work in Selma,” Oliver said. “But since none of that is certain, we’re just trying to give them all the support they need.”
Johnston County economic-development director Chris Johnson said his office learned of the plant’s impending closure about a month ago and alerted county commissioners and Selma leadership
Johnson said N.C. State Industry Expansion Solutions and Johnston Community College had begun working with affected employees during the transition.
“We know that the business climate is ever changing,” Johnson said. “We are grateful to Sona for providing jobs to our citizens during its history here in Johnston County. We are hopeful that with the continued manufacturing and industrial growth within county and the region that these individuals can be quickly absorbed back in the workforce.”
Sona’s Selma plant had suffered a fire that caused nearly $4 million in damage to the building and its machinery, prompting a temporary closure. The shutdown led to a loss of customers, the company said.
Downie said the parent company hoped to invest in the plant to bring it back from the brink. But after losing support from bankers, “the situation has become untenable, and to be frank, we simply ran out of operating cash earlier than expected,” he said.
The day before the plant’s closure, Michael Cox checked in on Facebook to say goodbye.
“Last day at this job,” Cox wrote. “Start my new adventure Monday. Going to miss the people, not the place. Good luck to the rest at Sona finding a new job.”
Cox told friends on Facebook that he was headed for a job at Hog Slat, a farm-equipment business in Newton Grove.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett