Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gudebrod Down for the Count?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

By Michelle Karas,

POTTSTOWN — The leadership of local manufacturer Gudebrod Inc. confirmed Monday the layoff of its entire work force.

W.E. "Nat" LeGrande Jr., company president, said he is hopeful the layoffs, which occurred Friday, will be temporary. He said about 60 to 65 union and non-union workers have been temporarily laid off from the 274 Shoemaker Road facility while the financially troubled, family-owned company seeks new capital.

"We are in the process of trying to bring in fresh financing," said LeGrande. "And I think we're going to be successful. I think it's going to happen."

LeGrande said employees were notified at meetings on Friday of the immediate layoff.

Gudebrod is a manufacturer of products including medical cords, silk and synthetic sewing threads, fly-fishing thread, and braided lacing tape for the aerospace industry.

"Our greatest desire is to reopen and start shipping again," he said. "We're very anxious to reopen and continue making quality products we've made here since 1976."

Securing new investors is something LeGrande said the company leadership has been working on for the last six months.

"It's close, but I can't tell you when it will happen. As soon as we do, we will call everybody back," he said.

On Monday, the facility parking lot was empty except for two cars — those of LeGrande and his brother, E. David LeGrande, a company director.

"We told everybody on Friday we would call them back in as soon as we can," LeGrande said. "We left it at as soon as we had financing we would call them back."

Financing, according to LeGrande, is the only thing that's "the matter" at Gudebrod.

"We have great employees, products, suppliers and customers, but we need the money to bring in raw materials and pay a few bills before we can be up and running again," he said.

Gudebrod, according to LeGrande, has suffered since losing its major account — Glide dental floss — in 2007.

"That's really the start of when our problems began," he said. "Losing the Glide contract was huge. It was five-eighths of our business."

He added, "Everybody has known for two years that we were skating on thin ice."

Per the company website, Gudebrod dates back to the mid-1800s, when Belding Brothers Silk Co. was established in Middletown, Conn. In 1885, that company was sold to Christian Gudebrod and was renamed Champion Silk Co.

In 1895, brothers Christian, Frederick and Philip Gudebrod purchased the assets of the John B. Cutter Silk Mills in Bethlehem.

Two years later, they found an idle plant in Pottstown and moved their business south to Old Reading Pike in Stowe, renaming the company The Gudebrod Brothers Silk Co. Inc.

Brothers Edward and Charles Gudebrod joined the company around 1900.

The company had its peak employment during World War II when its products helped support the war effort. During that era, hundreds of local people worked at what was often referred to as "the silk mill."

In the 1970s, the company changed its name to Gudebrod Inc. to better reflect its product diversity and subsequently moved to the Shoemaker Road site.

LeGrande said the company board is working to keep the company running and in Pottstown.

"We all have a common goal here, and that's to move forward," LeGrande said.

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