Kolbe to Lay Off 300 Production and Office Workers

November 10, 2009

Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc. is laying off 334 of its production and office employees as a result of the continuing decline in the residential and light commercial construction industry, officials report. Most of the affected employees work at the company’s Wausau, Wis., facility.

“The company anticipates the lay-off to be a temporary measure, intending to call back as many of the workers as possible in early spring of 2010, when it is anticipated that the economic recovery will be further along, the seasonality of the winter months will be behind us, and many parts of the country will be gearing up for the building season that accompanies the spring and summer," states Michael Salsieder, Kolbe president. "While it is our desire to recall as many of the laid-off employees as possible in the early spring, the precise number will be determined by the resiliency of the economy and its ability to return to a normalcy that will result in sustained levels of sales revenues to justify employment levels we have previously experienced.”

Over the last three or more years when the window and door industry was in a substantial decline, as evidenced by a 70 percent decrease in new housing starts, Kolbe has performed better than many of its major competitors, he notes. Salseider attributes this performance to Kolbe’s proactive approach in implementing lean or continuous Improvement starting in 2005, the positioning of Kolbe’s products in the high end of the market that has shown more resiliency to the recessionary effects that were experienced in the lower and mid-level markets, and the company’s aggressiveness in adding distribution that diversified its presence throughout North America and evened out the seasonality that had previously existed in the demand for Kolbe’s products.

The current move to lay off workers, however, is being done to insure the long-term strength of the Kolbe organization, Salseider continues. "We know and understand that our employees appreciate that Kolbe has exhausted all alternatives in its effort to ride out the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, but it was necessary to take these measures to insure that Kolbe will be a strong company, a stable employer, and a market leader for many years to come.”

With the cutbacks in staff, the window and door manufacturer remains appropriately staffed in the manufacturing plant and in the office to maintain the company's high levels of service and product qualifty, Salseider concludes. "We will not allow our high levels of quality and customer service to slip one bit. We will smartly manage our business to the current and anticipated workloads and, as the economy recovers, we will have the flexibility to increase the manpower required to meet the increasing demand for our products throughout North America.”