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McGrath Electrical turns out the lights

By Marie Rohde

McGrath Electrical Inc., a longtime Janesville business, has shut its doors, leaving as many as 60 people without jobs.

The companys office telephone and the telephone at company president and owner Andrew McGrath’s home were not in service Thursday. But Richard Lynes, vice president of operations for the electrical contracting company, said he was surprised when he was told Monday the company is closing.

“I had just gotten back from a job when I heard about it,” Lynes said. “Yeah, we were having the same problems as everyone is having, but I didn’t know we were closing.”

Donald McGrath, Andrew’s father, founded the company is 1963, said Lynes, who worked for the contractor for 27 years.

He said McGrath Electrical, like many other firms, was not getting paid soon enough for the work it did. Payments, Lynes said, used to come in within 47 days, but now were taking 70 to 80 days.

“And the banks,” he said, “are making it difficult to get loans.”

Jobs around Janesville have been difficult to find, Lynes said, but there still was some work. He said he was told not to discuss outstanding projects.

The company was listed as an electrical contractor on a building expansion project for DeJope Gaming in Madison. That permit was withdrawn Oct. 8, though Lynes said the permit was not needed because the work was to be performed on tribal lands.

He said McGrath crews were working at DeJope last week.

Vic Grassman, the city of Janesville economic development director, said he had not been aware of any problems at McGrath.

“It came as a complete surprise to us,” he said. “Neither the economic development staff nor the Chamber of Commerce had any inkling.”

The exact number of McGrath employees at the time of closing could not be confirmed. But if there are more than 50 employees when a company closes, state law requires companies notify the state prior to mass layoffs.

If the law applies to McGrath and the company did not notify the state, former employees could receive up to 60 days in back pay and benefits, said John Dipko, a spokesman for the Department of Workforce Development.

A check of the company’s court records showed only one case against McGrath. In July, a $76,626 default judgment was entered against the company and Andrew McGrath in favor of the Debco Corp., a design build contractor based in Janesville.

The judgment has not been paid and calls to Debco were not answered.

Robert Borremans, executive director of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board who said he had known the McGrath family for many years, blamed the company’s closure on the economy.

“I talk to a lot of contractors, and the first couple I ran into after hearing about this said they didn’t think it was true,” Borremans said. “It really is a shame. Here’s a good, family-owned company that has been a long-term asset to our community.

“They’ve done good work over the years.”

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