Greenville area to lose 190 jobs

Greenville will lose a piece of its history with the closing of the John D. Hollingsworth on Wheels plant, with the loss of 190 jobs around the holidays.

The company, a supplier of textile machinery, told employees that the plant would close, effective Dec. 31. Severance benefits and career transition assistance is being offered to the employees.

"We will work with our people in any way we can to make the transition as smooth as possible," said William Henderson, president and chief operating officer.

Also, Hollingsworth on Wheels plans to close subsidiaries in Norwood, Mass.; Sylacauga, Ala.; Terrell, Texas; and Quebec, Canada. That affects six of the 190 employees.

Henderson said the decision to close the plant was difficult and "we held on as long as we could. It is a matter of the textile industry disappearing in the South and indeed the United States."

Closure of the big textile plants resulted in a decreased demand for textile machinery products in the United States," he said.

Henderson said that layoffs have begun and will continue until the company is closed. The layoffs are phased to try "to minimize the impact of this on our customers, the ones that remain."

Equipment will be liquidated and the plant emptied, he said. Eventually, the building could be leased.

"You have tough things to deal with in life. This time ranks up very high," Henderson said. "We've been here a long time together and grew up together. We worked together and we played together. This time we've cried together."

The Greenville-based company was founded in 1894 by Pinckney Hollingsworth as a one-man operation. Using a mule-drawn machine shop on wheels, he traveled to cotton mills in the Carolinas to repair textile machinery. The company expanded through his son and grandson, John D. Hollingsworth Jr.

A broad range of products developed and manufactured by Hollingsworth gained a worldwide reputation for their quality and contribution to high-speed carding, according to the company's Web site. Under the leadership of the founder's grandson, extensive research and development resulted in a range of new carding accessories and enhanced card features that were incorporated into a program of card refurbishment and modernization.

When Hollingsworth died in 2000, the company was transferred to the Hollingsworth Foundation. The estate also included more than 40,000 acres of property valued at nearly $300 million. The foundation exists to benefit Furman University, the Greenville County YMCA and other Greenville County charities. Hollingsworth also made substantial gifts to Greenville institutions over the years but always anonymously.

In 2003, the company sold most of its international operations to Truetzschler Group, a textile machinery maker and longtime customer from Germany. Plants in Germany, Brazil and Mexico as well as a sales and service office in England were sold. The facilities employed about 200 people.