The loss of 475 jobs at the Dexter Shoe plant, which will be phased out by the new year, pushed the state's manufacturing job loss this year to 2,000, a member of King's cabinet told town officials. In comparison, the nation has lost one million manufacturing jobs this year.
"We're doing better than the rest of the country," King said Wednesday during a meeting with Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Steve Levesque and town officials.
That statistic did little to lighten the mood among those gathered to hear what services the state could offer to the affected employees and the town.
In a prepared statement released Tuesday, Dexter Shoe announced the company was "grateful and proud" of its work force, but it could not control the worldwide marketplace and global economy. The permanent layoffs will be made from Nov. 1 through January.
Another 150 to 200 jobs will be retained in the warehouse, customer service, marketing and in the management of retail stores, company officials told King.
In addition to meeting with town officials, the governor and Levesque met separately Wednesday with the affected Dexter Shoe Co. workers at the factory.
King said he told the workers that the state would provide the help they need to "get back on their feet." Because the layoffs are related to imports, King said the employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits for up to two years, longer than the standard. Substantial resources also will be available for training and education.
To help toward that end, the governor announced the Department of Labor would open an office in Dexter to provide the necessary resources to the workers. He said storefront space was being sought in the town.
"We're going to do everything we can to come out of this in a positive way," King told municipal officials.
Dexter Shoe Co. announced that it will provide those active employees who are laid off with severance pay equal to one week's pay for each year of employment, with a minimum of 12 weeks severance. The employees also will receive any unpaid vacation pay and the company will make any accrued payments under its Attendance Incentive Payment Plan on the regularly scheduled distribution date.
In addition to helping the displaced workers, King said the state would help market the shoe company buildings. He said he was optimistic that the company would work with the town to find a tenant, but suggested that the price of the building might be an issue. "They've been reasonably cooperative" in working with the state after Dexter Shoe plants in Milo and Skowhegan were closed, he said. JSI Store Fixtures opened in the Milo building and the Skowhegan plant was donated to the town, the governor noted.
"It's not a no light [at the] end of the tunnel situation. It's harder given the state of the United States economy," King said. However, the town will have something other communities don't have and that is an available building. "A community with a building is way ahead," he said.
Dexter Town Manager Robert Simpson said the town's newly incorporated economic development committee will also be active in marketing the building if an arrangement can be made with the plant owners.
"Everything is one step farther to a new Dexter; we're building for the future," Simpson said after the meeting. "All of this is behind us and we'll make the best of the situation."
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