Hess Industries issues WARN Notice, employees in limbo

An estimated 200 people worked at Hess when a morning meeting was called to tell employees money had run out.

"We found out in a meeting this morning they couldn't guarantee that they were going to pay us. They were up front enough to say 'hey you need to go home we can’t guarantee we can pay you'," said David Siekma, a Tool and Die worker at Hess.

After the meeting, many returned home to get trailers and other equipment to haul their tools off the factory floor.

"It was a surprise in a sense. It’s kind of a shock, but I've been through this before. It's hard to survive in this business any more. I swear," said one employee as he left the parking lot. "In a sense you become a family. That's what toolmakers and machinist are."

Late in the afternoon a warrant for distraint was posted on the company's door indicating it had 36-hours to pay its back taxes or the township would begin to seize property.

Hess owed $14,733.90 to Milton Township, Cass County and the Edwardsburg School District. It defaulted on the payment in March and the township has been working to recover the money since then.

"You want to give them the benefit of the doubt. That's what I tried to do. This has been delinquent since the first of March and I had been talking with them and sending notices, so at this point if we hear a business closing we have to get in right away," said Linda Debroka, Milton Township's treasurer.

A few hours later Hess paid off its back taxes, but the impact to the community will take time to be fully felt.

"For the township that may be minimal, but obviously the impact to the schools and county because it is business taxes lost," said Township Supervisor Robert Benjamin.

The future of employees at Hess is uncertain. A letter given to employees indicates it is seeking additional funding, but may close in late August. Many employees appeared to accept the news as a sign it is closing for good and made plans to start searching for work.

"We'll make it through, we'll be alright. It'll be tough. We'll have to be creative with finances, but we'll do it and you just do what you have to do, this is an economy you have to be very versatile in, so here we go," said Siekma.

Hess has been operating for more than 35 years supplying manufacturers with wheel and rim, metal spinning and process design and control solutions.

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