Northern Engraving Corp., a maker of industrial nameplates and decorative trim, said it will close its La Crosse, Wis., automotive parts plant by February because of declining sales volume. The Sparta, Wis., company said 178 employees will be affected. The private firm has seven plants employing 3,000 in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.
``This is not something we like to do, [but] to keep Northern financially strong, we must be competitive,'' said Jim Riniker, president of Northern Automotive Division. ``Our customers won't pay for our unused capacity and its overhead.''
A softening of the automotive parts
market and the loss of a subcontracting job contributed to the closing, spokeswoman Pam Otto said. Earlier this year, Northern closed another parts plant in La Crosse. In the upcoming closing, Northern had readied the production of parts for a major auto supplier that, itself facing a softening market, abruptly pulled the tools so it could make the parts in its own factory. Otto declined to identify the customer.
The La Crosse plant made buttons and other decorative parts for instrument panels.
Some hourly and salaried employees at the La Crosse plant may be able to transfer to other Northern plants if openings occur. Northern also is working with job-placement agencies to help employees find new work.
The closing is to begin Jan. 31 and should take two weeks.