Hr. Grace factory closes
Some 80-plus employees out of work
The Terra Nova Shoes production facility in Harbour Grace closed it doors for good Thursday to most of its workers. While some will continue to handle a few a tasks related to shutting down the building, most of the 80-plus workers are now left without a long-tern job in sight. The company kept its operations going in the community for over 40 years.
The sound of car horns signalled the end of an era in Harbour Grace last Thursday.
Like countless times before, employees said goodbye to one another as they broke for the day. It’s a tradition usually reserved for Christmas and summer break. This day was different. The Terra Nova Shoes production facility on Water Street closed its doors for the final time. The company was founded in 1971 and has used the current factory since the late 1970s.
The original factory’s history dates back to the 1950s when then-premier Joseph Smallwood convinced German entrepreneurs to set up Koch Shoes in Harbour Grace.
“It was something we always did,” said Jackie Moores, one of the employees impacted by the closure. “Now, it is the last time.”
The closure came a day earlier than expected and leaves many of its 86 employees on the lookout for longterm employment.
Over 40 of those workers will stay on for cleanup and to finish the rest of the work over the next little while.
News of the impending closure was first announced last summer.
“It has been a crazy day,” said Moores. “There are some people who are still upset about it.”
The closure is sure to be felt by not only the town of some 3,100 residents, but also the entire region.
Harbour Grace had counted on $71,000 in taxes from the business.
The move has been described as devastating by many of the employees and others in the community.
“It is heart breaking,” said 11-year employee Lisa Evely.
Kodiak Group Holdings, the company that purchased Terra Nova Shoes in 2005, is relocating production to Cambridge, Ont. Employees were given the opportunity to take positions there, but only one has done so.
“I worked in Cambridge for two years. If I wanted to be there, I would be,” said Evely.
The rest took a severance package, the details of which have not been made public.
“They are giving us a really good severance package,” said Moores. “No company could have done any better.”
The company received multiple loans and grants over the past decade. Even then, t he workforce has decreased by half in that time.
Some $8 million in an interest-free loan was given to the company in 2008 by the provincial government.
In 2010, 59 workers were laid off, and more workers lost their positions in a second round of layoffs.
The rain was heavy as employees left the building, some carrying frozen turkeys offered as a parting gift by the company in addition to their personal belongings.
Most of them were visibly emotional as they pushed through the side door.
Some have new jobs lined up, while others do not.
“I have to go home and figure out what I’m going to do,” said Jeff Jacobs, an employee of eight years.
Many who worked there have described the group as a family. One employee, who wished to not be identified, said she was close with everyone she worked with.
“We’ve all added each other on Facebook,” added Moores.
Former employees attended a social at the Knights of Columbus in Carbonear last Thursday evening to say their last goodbyes to each other.
Terra Nova Shoes employe e John Burke leaves the building with his boots and frozen turkey in hand on Nov. 27. It marked the last day of operation for the company, which has been in business since 1971.