Franklin Equipment closes

Published 6:53 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

FRANKLIN—It wasn’t a very Merry Christmas for employees of the Franklin Equipment Co.

The company told employees Tuesday, and released a statement Friday, that “due to economic conditions, the company will be closed starting after the close of business on Dec. 23, and will remain closed until further notice.”

The statement also said that the company’s 60 employees were notified that some limited work would continue to be performed during the closing, including security, maintenance of equipment and buildings, and certain administrative functions.

“Employees that will be needed to fulfill these requirements will be notified individually,” the statement said.

Clyde Parker, the company’s personnel manager, estimated that about 12 to 15 employees would be needed to perform the limited work during the closing period.

When asked when the company plans to reassess its situation, Parker said, “it’s going to be an ongoing, daily thing. We’ve got to see what (business) comes to us.”

According to Parker, the company has had some extended holiday weekends in the past, including around the Fourth of July, but has never closed down.

Parker said the closing announcement was made to employees on Tuesday, two days before Christmas. Not surprisingly, he described the mood as being somber.

“We’re very concerned about the effect this is having on our employees,” Parker said. “Due to the nature of our business, (the employees) have been able to see this decline. It’s unfortunate – a lot of factors came together to make this happen.”

Wallace Turner, the company’s assistant plant manager and an employee since 1971, said both he and his co-workers were “caught off guard” by the announcement, but indicated it wasn’t completed unexpected.

“We pretty much knew that no business was coming in,” Turner said. “We knew something was going to happen. You can’t bring people in with no business.”

Turner said the Drake family, which owns Franklin Equipment Co., had been very generous over the years to their employees.

“Whatever happened now, they had no other choice,” Turner said of the Drakes. “Business has been struggling for a couple of years. It looks like this past storm was too much for them to weather.”

Messages seeking comment were left with Roger and Randy Drake but not returned.

Turner said he plans to work for another two or three days at the company, “cutting everything off and making sure the equipment will not harm anyone.” After that, he would consider himself retired from the company and would look for some work elsewhere.

But when asked if he would return if the company re-opened, Turner said, “yes, I would go back.”

The company laid off 15 workers in October, citing bad economic conditions. Those employees were reportedly in the support and production departments, and in the machine shop.

Franklin Equipment Co. was founded in 1962 in Franklin, and manufactures diesel logging tractors, primarily for the timber harvesting industry. In addition to its headquarters in Franklin, the company owns a retail sales and service outlet in Louisburg, N.C., and a foundry that makes axle and transmission housings in Independence, Ore.

Parker said the closing announcement would affect the foundry in Oregon, but not the retail sales and service outlet in N.C.