Fresno Co. Lays off Nearly 2 Dozen Workers

January 27, 2009 8:43:30 PM PST
During the housing boom voices were hard to hear inside Merzon Industries, a window and door manufacturing plant in Fresno. Owner Pat Redell said "The glass cutting, the saws and the tooling."On Tuesday, the only sounds came from a cutting machine. It's the very last order produced at Merzon, for now. At 5 o'clock, Redell stopped all operations. He said, "Yes, it will be very quiet tomorrow."

Redell started working in production at Merzon in 1976. It's only the second job he's ever had. In 1993 he bought the company and signed paychecks to as many as 90 employees. Then, in 2006 business slowed down. 2008 was his worst year yet, having to lay off workers here and there. Tuesday, he had to say goodbye to 22 more people, leaving him with just 6 employees. He said, "There is an emotional aspect to having people you've worked side by side with for years not know where their next job is going to be, not know where their next paycheck is coming from and to be the one that gives them that news."

He said his business has dropped by 75 percent in the last six months and he held on as long as he could. But when he saw that in November only 77 new home permits were pulled in Fresno-- when there are normally about 500-- he knew he had to take drastic measures. "For the balance of 2009 we will suspend production operations, we will remain in business, our doors will remain open, we will continue to service our clientele and out builder base."

Redell said he gave his employees as much notice as possible and it was one of the hardest things he's ever had to do. Especially for those who had been with the company for 20 and 30 years. "They're obviously very upset. This is a very traumatic time for them."

But he insists he's not going out of business and he'll still come to work everyday for his existing customers. Redell knows the housing market will rebound and when that happens he plans to bring back as many of his employees as he can.

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