70 laid off, 30 positions terminated

WAYLAND — Wayland's Gunlocke plant downsized this week in cutbacks that impact 100 employees at the famous chair manufacturing company.

HNI Technologies Corp. laid off 70 employees and terminated 30 other positions on Monday at the Steuben County plant.

Steven Bradford, HNI Technologies general counsel and secretary, shared the company's reasoning behind this decision.

“There were 100 employees affected by this layoff. About 70 of them were laid off and 30 members were terminated,” he said. “It is primarily due to the volume of business. The volume of products being manufactured at the Wayland facility is down significantly to the size of staffing. The staffing was too large to support the volume we were getting from the plant. The size of the workforce there was not in balance with what products we got from the facility.”

This layoff affected all the departments in the plant.

“It was across the board at the facility,” he said. “It was largely based on seniority, so we try to protect the longer service members. There weren’t any particular areas or departments that were shut down. We just downsized across the manufacturing operation.”

Bradford added that this was not a decision the company took lightly, and it had been discussed over time.

“It totally depends on the economy and the volume of products being made at the Wayland facility,” he said. “Certainly if volume goes up and orders go up, we will be hiring those people back. We all hope that we can bring those employees back.”

The HNI Corporation acquired Gunlocke in 1989. HNI is based in Iowa and has a plant there that performs some similar work.

“We are continually refreshing the brand. We always have new products made at our Gunlocke facility,” Bradford said. “We have invested a lot over the years into the Wayland facility. We are always improving the quality of the plant and machinery. 

“Some of Gunlocke products are now being manufactured at our facility in Iowa,” Bradford continued. “Gunlocke products are not only made at Wayland, but also at our facility in Iowa. That didn’t used to be the case.”

HNI is hopeful this downturn will be temporary in nature. 

“We do all we can to reduce the cost before we talk about laying anyone off,” Bradford said. “It was decided last week that we would have to lay some people off. Gunlocke continues to be a viable and successful business for us. We hope to keep it viable in the future.”

The news comes a few months after a Nov. 27 state announcement that Gunlocke completed a $2.6 million expansion project that included the creation of 110 jobs at its Wayland facility as a result of a state economic development incentive package. The incentives included a low-cost power allocation from Governor Cuomo's ReCharge NY program, and a funding award from Empire State Development.

The Gunlocke facility was allocated 1,680 kilowatts of ReCharge NY power from the Governor's discount power program, which provides qualifying businesses and not-for-profit organizations with lower energy costs in exchange for commitments to retain or create jobs in New York State. The NYPA power allocation and an ESD funding award of $250,000 were directly tied to the firm's completed expansion project and job commitments, the state announcement said. 

The expansion, which utilized existing space at the facility, included the installation of equipment that was said to allow the firm to increase its chair production volume. The expanded facility is also now able to manufacture additional furniture lines that were formerly produced out of state.