Laid off Ethan Allen workers start new plants

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(Intro) Former Ethan Allen furniture workers have started new woodworking businesses since the company’s layoffs in Island and Randolph over the last year.

(Zind) While Ethan Allen remains in business in Orleans, in the last year and a half the company has closed two other Vermont plants. One hundred-twenty workers lost their jobs when Ethan Allen closed its Island Pond factory last year. This year, the company’s Randolph operation shut down, putting over 150 people out of work. In each case, there’s been a strong local effort to create new jobs to replace the ones lost.

In Island Pond, a small group of former Ethan Allen employees formed Island Pond Woodworks. When plans to purchase the old Ethan Allen facility fell through, the group built a new plant. Bruce Wilkie is vice president of the worker-owned business:

(Wilkie) “We have a 15,000-square foot, brand new facility located in the center of Island Pond. We’re bringing machinery in as we speak and we should be able to start production in mid-January.”

(Zind) In Randolph, an existing local business plans to take over the sprawling Ethan Allen plant on the outskirts of town. Green Mountain Wood Products makes a variety of small items including toy parts, handles and wooden boxes. Bob Tellier of Green Mountain Wood Products says purchase of the plant is contingent on his company finding other businesses to share the space:

(Tellier) “We have a tentative closing date coming up next month. I’ve been working on this project almost exclusively for three to four months. I feel pretty confident that we should have everything in place within the next three to four weeks.”

(Zind) Tellier says Green Mountain Wood Products currently employs 30 people. Bruce Wilkie says the Island Pond factory will start with a small workforce. Neither company will be able to restore all of the jobs lost by the Ethan Allen closings, but both have plans to expand in the future.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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