Despite the recent layoff of 112 manufacturing workers and the shuttering of manufacturing operations at Garco Building Systems’ Airway Heights facility, the company says it will retain nearly 50 workers here in information technology, sales, and procurement departments.
“There are no plans to reduce the Garco staff that remain employed in the area,” says Darcey Matthews, vice president of investor relations at Houston-based NCI Building Systems, Inc., which owns Garco Building Systems. Formerly Garceau Steel Structures, the company was established in 1958.
Stan Key, manufacturing industry manager at Greater Spokane Incorporated, says NCI Building Systems’ decision caught him off guard. “This one did come as a surprise,” Key says.
Key says GSI staff maintain active contact with the organization’s area members and the overall, at-large business community. However, that effort is made more challenging when a local employer has its headquarters located elsewhere.
He says if GSI had known about pending layoffs at Garco and the facility closing, the organization would have been better positioned to begin conversations with other area manufacturers in an effort to help dislocated employees find work.
“No one talked to us about what was about to happen,” Key says.
NCI Building Systems designs, manufactures, and markets a full line of metal buildings and components for the nonresidential construction industry. Its products are used in new construction and retrofit work in the agricultural, commercial, governmental, industrial, and institutional sectors of the economy, Matthews says.
In the Pacific Northwest, however, Matthews says demand fell drastically for the steel buildings once manufactured at the Airway Heights plant, located at 2714 S. Garfield Road.
Common examples of the types of building component packages that Garco previously fabricated included ones for warehouse facilities, large mining structures, and complexes for military bases.
Building components were fabricated at the plant and shipped to a construction site to be assembled by a project owner’s contractor. Products included steel structural components, wall and roof panels, secondary framing, and trim pieces. The plant employees included welders, machine operators, painters, and shipping and maintenance workers.
Key says the manufacturing workers laid off have skills that are in demand, and he is optimistic that they can find employment quickly.
Matthews says NCI Building Systems hasn’t decided what it will do with the vacant 137,000-square-foot building where the plant once operated.
The remaining employees occupy 10,000 square feet of office space in a building next door to that structure, Matthews says.
Robin Toth, vice president for business development at GSI, says in general, when companies shutter operations, Greater Spokane Incorporated actively works with its network of listings agents to advertise vacant office or warehouse space in an effort to court potential businesses from other areas.
“We don’t have a lot of empty buildings in Spokane,” Toth says. “Obviously, we don’t want to see workers displaced so suddenly. But when situations like this occur it does present an opportunity to fill a void with another company.”
In June 2013, the Journal reported that Garco had more than doubled its sales and steadily increased employment since 2011.
NCI Building Systems had bought Garco in 2007.
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