Wick files for bankruptcy (UPDATE)
Officials at Mazomanie-based Wick Building Systems Inc. have two options after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — reorganize or sell the company.
“I’m surprised,” said Mazomanie Village President Lowell Holcomb. “I’d heard they were closing down a couple of divisions, but this is the first I’ve heard of this. I don’t know what to say.”
According to a Monday evening statement attributed to company CEO Jeff Wick, the housing market decline created an unsustainable balance sheet for Wick Building Systems. Wick and other company representatives were unavailable before deadline Tuesday for further comment.
According to the statement, the company this week will ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin for authority to continue daily operations and to seek interim financing.
“This filing does not spell the end for Wick Buildings, and indeed is essential to our plans to continue in business,” according to a letter Wick sent to company employees Monday.
There are no stated timelines for reorganizing or selling the company, which has been based in the Mazomanie area since the 1950s and builds and supplies materials for homes, agricultural and commercial buildings. The company has two other divisions, John Wick Homes and Wick Manufactured and Modeled Homes.
The news is a reflection of the homebuyer’s market, said Kent Disch, government affairs director for the Madison Area Builders Association. Federal tax credits offered in the past year boosted the housing market, he said, but south central Wisconsin still has a lot of unsold homes.
“Things are still tough in terms of building,” Disch said. “Permit numbers are still down. Anecdotally, I’m hearing that at least phones are ringing and people are shopping, but there are still empty new homes that need to be soaked up.
And if someone has the option of moving into a new home or building one, which one do you think they’ll take?”
According to notices Wick filed earlier this month with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, as many as 494 employees faced layoffs, with 142 resulting from the company’s decision to close the Wick Manufactured and Modeled Homes plant in Marshfield. The Mazomanie-area layoffs were listed as possible.
Holcomb said he has not contacted company executives since the layoffs were announced, but, he said, he had hoped Wick would rebound after scaling back operations.
“I guess you do what you have to do to protect yourself,” he said. “Given the times right now, anything can happen.”
The Wick family and company has been an integral part of the Mazomanie community for decades, Holcomb said, but if selling Wick means people can keep their jobs, he said it should be done.
Despite a slow market rebound and companies reporting home sale increases over 2008, Disch said, it is possible there will be more work force reductions.
“It’s not a rush where we’re going to see a whole lot of employment following construction,” he said. “I think a lot of builders will still be trying to hold onto what they have instead of expanding.”