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New Wood-Mode owner in Snyder County hopes to hire up to 500

Written by John Beauge/PennLive | Aug 9, 2019 7:40 AM
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The Wood-Mode Inc. factory is seen in this photo taken September 18, 2018. (Designs by Jonathan via Google Maps)

(Kreamer) -- The Wood-Mode plant in Snyder County that closed abruptly on May 13, leaving 938 people without jobs, will soon be back in the business of producing custom wood cabinets.

New owner Bill Frenh said Thursday he has completed his purchase of the company's assets.

He declined to reveal the purchase price but said Great Rock Capital has the money. Great Rock, which was Wood-Mode's primary lender, got the money because all the company had were debts, he said.

About six weeks ago, French began calling back employees for special needs such as for maintenance and to contact dealers. There currently are 14 working, he said.

He anticipates taking job applications in a couple weeks with a goal, depending on how many orders the company receives, of hiring between 200 and 500 employees, he said. Wood-Mode had many fine crafts people, he said.

It has been a challenging time since he announced in June he had an agreement in principle to buy the Wood-Mode assets but, he said, "I think it's been worth it," he said.

Several times it appeared an agreement had been reached but something came up that required starting over, he said.

"I think we'll have a successful company," said French, who owns Professional Building Systems in Middleburg, which manufactures modular homes and apartments.

Wood-Mode had hundreds of dealers and of those he's contacted so far, only two said they would not be back, he said.

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Wood-Mode Inc., a cabinet manufacturer in Snyder County, abruptly closed earlier this month, putting more than 900 people out of work.

Delivery of the finished orders will begin immediately, he said. Product that dealers cannot use because they filled their orders elsewhere will be sold as samples, French said.

"It's exciting," said Robert Garrett, CEO of the Central Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce.

What is particularly exciting is his plan to rehire former employees, he said.

There was a sense of urgency to see the sale happen, he said. Snyder County's unemployment rate nearly doubled to 6.1 percent, the highest in the state, after the plant shut down, Garrett said.

Some of the 938 people who were left without jobs when the plant closed without warning have found other jobs. But a number have indicated on social media they would like to return.

Michele Sanders is one of those who will not be returning. She just was hired as a substitute rural mail carrier out of the Selinsgrove Post Office.

But she has cousins and uncles ready to go back to work at Wood-Mode if they're called, she said. Had she not gotten the mail job, Sanders said she would have considered returning if the pay was competitive.

David Scarr, former vice president of human resources, in a certified letter told the state Department of Labor and Industry that the plant was forced to close abruptly because a prospective buyer had backed out.

On top of that, on May 10 management learned its lender was unwilling to provide additional funding that would have enabled the plant to remain open while it explored a sale to other potential buyers, the letter said.

Wood-Mode CEO Robert Gronlund and his son, R. Brooks Gronlund, president and chief operating officer, are not involved in the new ownership.

Included in the assets that French bought is the building in Selinsgrove housing Wood Metal Industries that is owned by Robert Gronlund.

He said he hopes to negotiate a lease so Wood Metal will remain a tenant.

PennLive and The Patriot-News are partners with PA Post.

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