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Lawmaker sees threat to plant, but executive says future secure

By , - Last modified: February 14, 2011 at 1:41 PM

A state legislator says a Yorktowne Cabinetry Inc. manufacturing plant with about 300 employees is in danger of shutting down in coming years. Yorktowne officials insist the facility has a secure future, despite limits on production capacity.

A state legislator says a Yorktowne Cabinetry Inc. manufacturing plant with about 300 employees is in danger of shutting down in coming years. Yorktowne officials insist the facility has a secure future, despite limits on production capacity.

State Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York County) and officials with the kitchen-cabinet manufacturer agree on one thing: Environmental regulations are restricting growth at the plant in Red Lion.

Saylor has met with officials from Yorktowne, but the two parties described the depth of the challenge in widely diverging terms.

Dennis Scully, an executive vice president and general manager at Yorktowne, said the Red Lion property will be in no danger for the next five years. Beyond that time, the plant would be secure provided it remains as competitive as it is today, Scully said. If other things go well, environmental restrictions won’t break the plant, he said.

“As long as Red Lion’s performance and capabilities are held at a high level, I don’t think we’ll be thinking those kinds of thoughts,” Scully said.

In fact, Scully said Yorktowne has been working hard to reassure Red Lion employees who were spooked after the company announced in February 2005 that it would close a plant in Union County and move production to a new facility in Virginia.

Saylor said the company has assured him the plant is safe for the next five years, but he painted a much bleaker picture for the long term. The company indicated to him there was a strong possibility it might leave in coming years if the problem was not solved, Saylor said.

He urged Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration to find a solution for Red Lion.

“If we don’t do something in the next five years, there are 300 jobs that could leave Pennsylvania,” Saylor said.

Yorktowne Cabinetry makes kitchen cabinets that are sold through dealers directly to homebuilders. Yorktowne is a subsidiary of Elkay Manufacturing Co., a privately held company based in Illinois. The operation in Red Lion includes a manufacturing plant with about 300 employees and a corporate office with about 100 employees.

Yorktowne officials confirmed they are working with the Governor’s Action Team, a unit of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development that helps companies locate, expand or retain operations in the state.

Scully said caps on air emissions were tougher in some parts of the country than others under federal limits on ozone pollution.

Yorktowne’s problem is that the company could not upgrade its Pennsylvania plants significantly without installing costly pollution controls that are not required in other areas, Scully said.

In Red Lion, Yorktowne would like to add a second finishing line, which would apply glazes and stains to the cabinets. The Yorktowne plant is grandfathered into environmental regulations, but adding the line would force it to comply with newer rules, Scully said. That would be prohibitively expensive, he said.

But Scully said the company is doing other things to keep Red Lion busy.

“There is no plan to close Red Lion. In fact, we’re reinvesting in Red Lion,” he said.

Officials said the company designated Red Lion a production center for the Northeast region and trained workers to make the company’s most sophisticated cabinets, not just the basic products they previously were making.

“It becomes a much more valuable asset now,” Scully said of the facility.

The property Yorktowne is shutting down in Mifflinburg, Union County, is in a different situation, Scully said. The Mifflinburg facility was troubled because it was in an inefficient, three-story building, he said. It also makes sense to keep Red Lion open for logistical reasons, Scully said.

In February 2005, Yorktowne announced it would close the Mifflinburg plant and move its operations to Danville, Va. Yorktowne officials cited the environmental squeeze as a major factor in that closure. About 300 workers in Mifflinburg will lose their jobs.

Saylor said the Rendell administration should find a way to negotiate looser environmental rules for the company or help Yorktowne pay for the cost of compliance. The representative criticized the administration’s response, claiming it has given up on the plant.

A spokeswoman with DCED said she could only confirm that the Governor’s Action Team is working with Yorktowne.

Virginia wooed Yorktowne heavily. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner welcomed the company to its new site by having his office send a press release boasting that the project was supported by $2.8 million in state funds.

Yorktowne’s sales have grown rapidly in recent years, said Phyllis Roth, vice president of human resources. The company has added high-end customization options to its product line, which Roth said has driven up sales. Its customers include home-building giant Toll Brothers Inc., she said. Toll Brothers is based in Montgomery County.

The Red Lion plant has a union, but its leader referred a call to company officials.

Rick Mabus, an official with the Yorktowne union in Mifflinburg, said the company’s success was exactly the reason he is upset about the closure of his plant.

“That’s the sticking point in the whole thing,” he said. “The employees here in Mifflinburg are the ones who built this company into what it is.”

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