Hr. Grace fac­tory closes

Some 80-plus em­ploy­ees out of work

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYNICHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­

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.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

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.

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