Albert Lea company Bridon Cordage to close in September

Published 5:26 pm Monday, July 30, 2018

Albert Lea ag baler twine production company Bridon Cordage will close Sept. 25 after it is sold to an out-of-state group.

The closing of the plant, at 909 E. 16th St., is expected to result in the loss of 90 jobs.

The group that will purchase Bridon Cordage, Tama Group, reportedly is consolidating twine production at its Jerome, Idaho, plant.

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“In an increasingly competitive marketplace, Great Lakes Polymer Technologies has made the business decision to exit the agricultural product sector,” Great Lakes Polymer Technologies President John Marton said Friday in a notice to employees.

Great Lakes Polymer Technologies — the parent company of Bridon Cordage — reportedly plans to continue producing industrial products at its Kingman, Kansas, facility.

“However, after completion of a transition period, we will be closing the net wrap plant in Kingman, Kansas, and the twine plant in Albert Lea,” Marton said.

“This is a regrettable outcome, and we are committed to treating our employees with the respect and fairness they deserve.”

Great Lakes Polymer Director of Operations Kevin Miland said imports played a factor in the looming plant closure.
“We compete heavily against imports, and you’ve got imports coming in from all over the world now and in some cases are put on the shelf at prices that are not much over our factory cost,” he said. “And so it’s been (a) very, very competitive and very difficult, challenging work environment.

“It’s really the market that’s driven this — it’s not really anything to do with the performance of the plant or anything like it.”

Miland began working at Bridon Cordage in 1978 and said he was “shocked” when he learned of the looming closing of the Albert Lea plant Friday.

“I don’t think it’s really settled in with a lot of us yet,” he said. “I’ve been here 40 years, and it’s a case where you have a lot of uncertainty for the future, but it happens. But right now I guess the only thing we can do is try to look out for each other here.”

Miland said employees could be allowed to transfer to other locations, but no such plans have been established.
“This is all very early right now,” he said. “It just happened, so those opportunities may or may not be there.”

Employee severance packages have reportedly not been established.

Miland said he feels disappointed about the closing of the plant.

“It’s disappointing for everybody,” he said. “You look around here — there’s people I’ve worked with for many, many years that are affected by this. You worry about your co-workers, you worry about their families and you worry about yourself … the name of the game (is) just making sure that everybody here gets the best opportunity to reinvent themselves.”

Packaging lead Candace Sorgatz, who has worked for Bridon Cordage for 20 years, said she has felt many emotions after the announcement.

“I have a lot of anger, I have a lot of disappointment, I have a lot of what-ifs,” she said.

She expressed concern about her attempt to find a position with similar pay with the 90 people who are being laid off as part of the sale. She said she might have to look outside of Albert Lea for employment and raised the possibility of moving to Rochester to find a job.

Sorgatz, 56, whose husband works at Ventura Foods, said she has thought about working for Ventura but is cautious about working with her husband because they both worked for Farmland Foods when it burned down in 2001.

“You can’t count on one company to stay open,” Sorgatz said.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the plant’s closing is “going to be a loss for the community.”

“They’ve got a long history in Albert Lea providing good jobs, good wages,” he said.

Adams said the city plans to work with local entities to retain the employees who will lose their job due to the plant’s closing.

He said city officials still need to speak with Great Lakes Polymer executives to decipher the reasoning behind the move.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Small Business and Marketing Manager Noelle Hagen called the closing of the plant “disappointing,” adding she was not aware of what precipitated the move.

“We have not communicated with them,” she said. Hagen plans to meet with Val Kvale of Workforce Development and continue to market the city.

Hagen said companies typically do not contact economic development agencies before announcing such moves.

She expressed confidence the area’s low unemployment rate and high number of available jobs will allow laid-off employees to stay in the community.


About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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