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Woodland boat plant closes

Fineline-East Plant Manager Les Clark, shown here with one of the company’s signature NASCAR-theme boats, said declining production led to the closing of the Woodland facility. File photo by Thadd White

WOODLAND – Fineline Industries -East will cease operations by the end of September, affecting over 30 employees.

The Woodland boat manufacturer is a victim of the national economy, according to Les Clark, Vice President of Fineline and the Manager of the Woodland operation.

At the height of production, the Woodland plant was building 10 Centurion boats per week. That number is now down to three per week.

“We are moth-balling the entire factory,” he said. “We are not going to haul out any of the equipment or the molds.

“The decision has been made that due to the economy, operating two factories is not working out,” Clark added. “We are closing until the economy recovers and then we’ll be back in Woodland.”

Fineline also has a facility in Merced, California and that operation will handle all orders for the Centurion Boats manufactured by the company.

Clark said the Merced location was chosen because there were some parts that were never built in Woodland and that the Merced plant handles customer service, accounting and warranty divisions of the company.

“It was a question of having one and a third facilities open or one facility,” he said. “That is the economics of the situation and why the facility in Merced was chosen to remain open.”

Clark said the Woodland plant would lay off employees by department as they finished making the boats currently in production. The departments will each finish their current order, clean up their work area and moth-ball it.

“We hope the economy of the United States will turn around soon and we can open back up,” he said.

In 2008, the Woodland branch had 88 workers, but that number had been reduced to 32 by the time Fineline decided to cease operations in that facility. The current employees were given the word of the closing Thursday.

“This was a very tough decision to make; we know it affects people’s lives,” Clark said. “It is not something we took lightly. We appreciate all those who work for us. We hope the economy will recover. We hope that sometime soon, we can’t say when, that we’ll be able to call all our employees and get them back to work.”

He also said the company was trying to assist workers with finding similar employment in Edenton and Elizabeth City, where there are other boat manufacturers. Clark said any company hiring his workers would be glad.

“Until then, we have posted jobs in other areas to try to help people find work,” Clark continued. “I have a very good crew who show up on time and do what they should. Any of our employees would make a good employee for someone else.”

Woodland Mayor Jay Jenkins said he was saddened by the closing of Fineline, but hopeful the economy would improve and allow the company to return.

“Obviously, it’s a blow to the entire town for more than one reason,” Jenkins said. “It’s very unfortunate.

“There are 30-plus people whose lives are going to be completely disoriented for a while,” he said. “I’m as concerned about the individuals as I am about the plant. Fineline has been a good business for eastern North Carolina and particularly Woodland.

“Hopefully, the economy will change and the company can open the doors like they plan to,” he added.