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Wick layoffs leave communities at a loss

By Paul Snyder

Mazomanie and Marshfield leaders are preparing for the fallout in their communities when hundreds of people lose their jobs at Wick Building Systems Inc.

“Certainly it has an impact on this area,” said Mike Brehm, Marshfield city administrator. “We’re talking about the wages of a lot of people and the volume of construction in this area. But I still want to sit down with the mayor and some people from the company to discuss this further.”

According to a Tuesday letter attributed to Jeff Wick, the company’s president and CEO, the company suffered from the housing market recession, and employees in the company’s three divisions — Wick Buildings, John Wick Homes, and Wick Manufactured and Modeled Homes — received notices of mass layoffs.

VIEW THE LAYOFF NOTICES (PDF) (PDF) (PDF)

According to letters filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, as many as 494 employees are facing layoffs, with 142 people losing their jobs as a result of the closure of the Wick Manufactured and Modeled Homes plant in Marshfield.

Wick listed the remaining 352 layoffs in Mazomanie as “provisional” in filings with the DWD, meaning the job losses are not guaranteed.

DWD spokesman Dick Jones said company leaders plan a restructuring to preserve as many jobs as possible. He said mass layoffs can be prevented by, among other tactics, bringing in new ownership or finding new financing.

But with the single-family homebuilding market showing only weak signs of recovery, the news of mass layoffs is not surprising, said Greg Bartelt, president of Evansville-based Bartelt Custom Carpentry.

“We’re seeing more remodeling work than new homes,” he said, “and Wick is all about new homes.”

Despite the lagging market, Mazomanie Village Clerk Sue Dietzen said she thought Wick was maintaining a steady business. She said she was shocked by the company’s announcement.

“Hopefully,” she said, “the restructuring saves some of the jobs, and it’s not going to be as bad as it sounds right now.”

Dietzen said Wednesday she expects either she or Village President Lowell Holcomb will meet with the company to discuss the layoffs. Holcomb did not return calls seeking comment before deadline.

If Wick lays off all of the 352 Mazomanie-area employees who were notified, it would be the second major loss of jobs in the past two years in the village.

The Synergy Web Graphics plant closed in 2008, Dietzen said, costing the village more than 100 jobs.

“The unemployment situation is not good,” she said.

Brehm said Wick has not yet told Marshfield officials if the plant closing will be permanent.

“Obviously, we don’t like that kind of news, but you’re starting to see home sales up for the first time in a couple years,” he said. “Wick is a valued business in our community, and it would hurt to lose that.”

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