Most of the equipment was already gone and the offices all but empty Monday, just three days after cabinet manufacturer RSI told more than 100 employees their jobs would be moving.
Chief Operating Officer David Lowrie said the plant, which was one of the largest employers in Columbus, is not closing completely.
“It’s not a plant closure,” he said. “But it’s a pretty significant downsizing.”
Lowrie said various operations from the plant are moving to different facilities across the country, including made-to-order kitchen and bath cabinets.
Between 100 and 110 employees are affected by the change.
“This is not good news for the community at all,” said Columbus Chamber of Commerce Director Jean Pritchett. “I know they say it’s not a closure and we’ll just have to take their word for that.”
Pritchett said she is working with the Columbus Community Crusaders to “see what we can do about finding a way to get those employees back to work with a job fair or something.”
Columbus Mayor Marie Nepple said Monday she was “as shocked as anyone” to learn of the relocation.
“I talked to David Lowrie (Monday) and I do feel a little better,” she said. “They’re trying to get some state people down from Workforce Development to help the employees.”
Nepple said the shift would not affect property tax revenues as RSI owns the building and are under a property tax abatement, but she is concerned about the effect on sales tax revenues.
“I think it will certainly be significant,” she said. “Our sales tax base had just started creeping back up so we’ll have to see.”
Lowrie said they provided company-wide listings to employees on Friday at the meeting where the “downsizing” was announced. Lowrie said a severance package was provide for employees who preferred not to relocate.
“Most of the people have already taken the separation package,” Lowrie said.
About 70 employees were immediately affected Friday, with another 30 or more layoffs anticipated over the next several months.
Lowrie said the move would leave a few operations intact in Columbus, including some engineering projects, sourcing and a wood processing operation.
Lowrie said the reason for the plant move was “simply a result of a change in consumer buying habits.
“Kansas was manufacturing products people weren’t buying,” he said.