Business

Tool company laying off 170 at Midlands plant

The Sumter Item / jim@theitem.com

Production of APEX Tool Group’s Armstrong and Allen lines of hand tools will end March 31, putting 170 workers at the Sumter plant in the unemployment line.
Production of APEX Tool Group’s Armstrong and Allen lines of hand tools will end March 31, putting 170 workers at the Sumter plant in the unemployment line.

APEX Tool Group will cease production of its Armstrong and Allen lines of hand tools, a move that will end employment for 170 workers at its Sumter plant, said APEX Communications Director Kelly Rhoads.

"This is a difficult announcement for us and our associates," Rhoads said. "We can confirm we are reducing employment there (in Sumter) by 170 positions.

She said production of the Allen and Armstrong lines of hand tools will end by March 31.

Rhoads said no reductions are planned at any other of the company's facilities.

"We have given people the WARN notification that gives people 60 days prior to their last day of work," she said. Rhoads said she was unsure if all the employees who will be laid off have yet received the notification.

Rhoads was referring to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, a federal labor law that requires companies that are laying off more than 100 workers to give the workers 60-days advance notification.

Rhoads said the positions will be eliminated by March 31 as the production of the Armstrong and Allen tool lines ramps down.

Full-time associates are being offered severance benefits and employment assistance counselors have been made available, she said.

"We are partnering with state and local agencies to provide job search resources," Rhoads said. "We are already speaking with the SC Rapid Response team, which assists with workforce resources."

She said some of the employees affected have already received offers from other employers in the area.

"The Sumter community has already started reaching out to see how they can be of support, and there are definitely work leads for our associates," she said.

APEX Tool Group has employed approximately 365 people in Sumter prior to this reduction, Rhoads said.

"This is not manufacturing that is moving anywhere else, it is not going to another facility. We are not going to be selling these products," she said.

She said APEX will focus on its GearWrench brand, which has seen strong growth in the past couple of years.

"By streamlining our mechanic's hand tools portfolio, we can invest in and grow one brand for this market segment," Rhoads said.

In late 2014, APEX Tool Group consolidated plants in Springdale, Arkansas, and Dallas, Texas, bringing many of those employees to Sumter. That consolidation involved the same tool lines involved in this reduction, according to Rhoads.

That same year, APEX Tool Group was named the Manufacturer of the Year by the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce.

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