Enviroshake, Chatham-Kent’s 2017 Industry of the Year, leaving for Michigan with 50 jobs

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A Chatham manufacturer named Industry of the Year for 2017 will close at the end of the year, its employees were told Thursday and Friday.

Almost 50 workers will be affected when Enviroshake Canada closes.

Part of its production will be moved to Michigan, said Marie Joseph, assistant general counsel for Atlanta-based Boral Industries, which owns Enviroshake.

“We’ve decided to stop the manufacturing of Enviroshake and focus on the Inspire line,” said Joseph. “Basically, Boral made the decision to consolidate the composite roofing into one brand and technology.”

She said Inspire production will move to Metamora, Mich. and be consolidated into an existing plant.

“Basically, the employees haven’t done anything wrong. It was a business decision to consolidate the composite roofing into one brand,” Joseph said.

In response to a question about buyouts or the opportunity for employees to transfer to the Michigan plant, Joseph said, “Right now we’re just closing it (the manufacturing facility) and the employees are going to be terminated.”

The Enviroshake line includes lightweight, durable roofing products made from recycled material. Manufacturing began in 2002 in the former Motor Wheel plant at the corner of Bloomfield Road and Riverview Drive. The product has been lauded for its use of recycled material and its ability to repel fire.

Two years ago, U.S.-based Headwaters Roofing Group purchased Enviroshake, and in May, Boral Industries purchased Headwaters.

Joseph couldn’t comment on how long the facility’s closure has been planned.

Friday’s news is surprising, considering Enviroshakes’s past success. The company was named Industry of the Year by the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce in March, and last year there was talk of the company doubling its employee complement in Chatham.

Earlier this year, Mike Lee, director of operations for Headwaters, said he was satisfied overall with the Chatham plant’s performance.

“When we look out two, three years down the road, we definitely want to increase volume by 50 per cent and bring in the new product,” Lee said in March.

At the time, Lee said Headwaters’ acquisition of Enviroshake helped the company get a foothold in the Caribbean market where Enviroshake products are sold. And their intention was to get the Chatham product into the British and American markets.

According to one Enviroshake employee on Friday, there was talk as recently as Monday of installing new equipment at the Chatham plant.

“This really blindsided us,” another one said of the closure notice, adding all employees could do was hope for the best.

“What’s left in Chatham-Kent?” a third employee asked. “You see the industry leaving, nothing coming back.”

Stuart McFadden, acting director of Chatham-Kent’s economic development services, hadn’t been formally informed of the closure but said Friday, “If by chance, if something has happened and it does get confirmed in the future, we’ll do everything we can to support the company and the employees through the transition.”

Without commenting on the closure, McFadden said any job is important. He said he was told on Aug. 1 that Enviroshake has 46 employees.

Asked for comment Friday, Gail Hundt, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “Without verification at this point, if the situation is true, it will be hard of the employees, yet we respect Enviroshake’s decision.

“And hoping to work with the company to see, with partners in the community, what we can do to assist Enviroshake.”

In light of the company’s recent award from the Chamber of Commerce, she said: “Awards are given on past history and absolutely, undoubtedly, they deserved that award at the time.”

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