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Mail-Well Closes Michigan Envelope Plant

January 1999
KALAMAZOO, MI—Mail-Well has shut down 96-year-old Illinois Envelope Co., nearly five months after it was purchased—a victim of local banking consolidation. Local press reports state there has been some grumbling among the employees, who say Mail-Well misled them about expanding the plant and buying new equipment when it first bought the company. Also, an editorial in the Kalamazoo Gazette accused Mail-Well of knowing, when it bought the company, that it was going to close the plant.

Mail-Well officials have not commented, but in a letter to the editor, Mail-Well's Vice President and General Manager Kevin Howley refuted that charge.

"If Mail-Well had intended to close this facility, it would have made a lot more sense to have done it immediately," Howley wrote. "Instead we spent the last four months integrating the Illinois Envelope work force into Mail-Well and began planning our Michigan-based strategy.

"At the same time, however, the banking industry in Michigan continued to consolidate and, as a result, Illinois Envelope lost a couple of very key customers. The net result was that the Kalamazoo facility was operating at a loss."

Howley also raised questions in his letter about Kalamazoo's ability to compete in the global economy. "Do the city planners believe that manufacturing facilities in Kalamazoo can compete with Detroit, Chicago or even Taiwan?"

Local chamber of commerce officials concede that it will not be difficult for most employees at Illinois Envelope to find new job. With unemployment at about 3 percent in the area, many have already found jobs. They also agreed that Illinois Envelope made a mistake in doing much of its business with merging banks.

"I think [Mail-Well] probably wasn't aware they had the potential to lose that significant a portion of that business," said a chamber official in a published interview.

Still, says one former employee of Mail-Well: "They have no feelings for us and our lives. This is how life is now: big companies and more money."
 

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