Murfreesboro company lays off 20

Published 8:03 am Friday, February 27, 2009

MURFREESBORO, N.C.—Metal Tech cut more than a fourth of its workforce Thursday, citing slow business.

“I didn’t lay off 20 employees; I laid off 20 family members,” said Ray Felton, who owns the company with his son, Brock. “It was the toughest day of my life.”

Before the layoffs, Metal Tech employed 74.

“We’ve been fighting it,” Felton said, adding that the firm, which historically has seen most of its work come from within a 60-mile radius, has been “looking for work anywhere we can find it.”

Felton said there is no danger of his company dying, but he added, “We realize that what we’ve been doing may not be what we’re doing a year from now.”

The company’s traditional customers have been paper mills and Nucor, which has a nearby Colfield plant.

Felton said he hopes not only to be able eventually to rehire those who received their final checks Thursday, “but more besides.”

But, he said, “There’s nothing on the radar right now.”

Felton stressed that none of those laid off lost their jobs because of any fault of their own.

“There wasn’t anything any of them did wrong,” he said, “and we appreciate the support and the efforts of every single employee, and the understanding of those today.”

Murfreesboro Mayor Lynn Johnson, upon learning of the layoff, said, “I know this has been the hardest thing in the world for Ray to do. I know him that well.”

“I am deeply concerned to hear this,” she said, adding, “I’m sure I know many of these people, and this is just really disturbing.”

The mayor said the Metal Tech layoff “is a sign of the economic times in which we find ourselves” and noted that the Town Council has itself “put a freeze on our expenditures.”

Cathy Davison, Murfreesboro town administrator, said the layoff “will have an impact. They’re one of our largest employers, outside of the university.”

“But,” she continued, “they’re in the same situation the town is in. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts. We’re going to have to look toward the future but be fiscally responsible in the meantime.

She said Felton did not exaggerate how he feels about the employees laid off Thursday.

“He knows every single one of his employees,” she said. “I went to their Christmas party and he said something personal about every one of them. It really is a family.”

She also said that, because she knows Metal Tech’s owner, she believes the firm will come out of the current situation even stronger than it was.

“Anytime you have to lay off good folks, it’s painful,” said Dell Aycock, president of the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce, “and in a town like Murfreesboro, it strikes a little deeper. You don’t want to see people in a bind. We’re a small town and we care. It hurts every one of us.”

But Aycock continued: “We’re looking ahead to better times. We’ve got to weather this storm, but it is just a storm. It’s not going to last forever.”