CUBA CITY—After five-and-a-half years in Cuba City, Wausaukee Composites Inc. is permanently closing its Cuba City facility. The operation has been on a temporary closure for over a month.
In late February 2008, Wausaukee Composites Inc., based in Marinette County, began manufacturing wind turbine parts in Cuba City. The composite plastic and fiberglass components manufacturer builds nacelle housings for two wind turbine generator manufacturers.
A letter received by the city of Cuba City from Sintex-Wausuakee Composites on July 25 states, “Unfortunately, the Cuba City facility has recently experienced dramatic and unforeseeable business circumstances outside of its control. Specifically, the Cuba City facility’s primary customer has unexpectedly terminated production at one of its own facilities. Consequently, this customer has terminated all of its current and future purchases of Wausaukee’s products and advised that it will not order components from Cuba City in the future… In light of federal tax law changes, together with decreased investment in the wind energy industry, Wausaukee has been unable to identify or secure any new customers or other wind energy business to replace the loss of its customer. As a result of these unforeseen business circumstances, Wausaukee must permanently close the Cuba City facility.”
A total of 36 employees were employed at Wausaukee’s Cuba City facility. It is anticipated that 33 employees will be terminated; the remaining three employees have accepted transfers to positions at Wausaukee’s facility in Wausaukee.
“The Department of Workforce Development is looking at the reasons for the plant closing,” Taylor Gronau, economic development director for Cuba City, said. “If it is because of foreign competition, that opens it up for the employees for further support from extended employment benefits, career counseling, job search assistance, resume preparation, interviewing skills, education and training opportunities.”
Gronau said a rapid response team is being assembled by the Department of Workforce Development to meet with the displaced workers and go over their options and any opportunities for training or unemployment. The meeting, which will likely take place in Cuba City, has not yet been set.
“I think it is in the city’s best interest to move forward and do everything we can to the displaced employees of Wausaukee,” Gronau said.
Mayor Lee Weber said he is confident with Gronau on board to follow up on this, that something positive will come out of this situation. Wausaukee Composites owns the now-vacant building and has it for sale.
“It’s a good building in a good location,” Weber said. “We’ve got a good work ethic with the people in the community and the area. Something positive will come out of this.”
Gronau said he will work directly with Wausaukee to market the building.
Weber said there are currently no other empty buildings available in the industrial park.
“We will have one available if someone comes through and wants a building right now,” Weber said. “That’s supposed to be a big plus. It can be hit or miss.”
Gronau said there is a lack of industrial buildings available in southwest Wisconsin.
“The writing was really on the wall with their plant closures three times in the last four to five years,” Gronau said. “They lost one of their main customers. When business goes out the door, you have to adjust to business demand.”
Weber said the $3.2 million loan Wausuakee received to double its facility and increase the number of employees never materialized.
“They never followed through, so they did not get [the funding],” Weber said. “The timing expired and they did not get it.”
Wausaukee Composites received a revolving loan fund in 2008 to assist with the purchase of the building and equipment and for working capital. The loan has been repaid to the city as of June 2013.
Gronau said the immediate tax impact should be minimal since Wausaukee owns the building.
“The only foreseeable impact would be if the use of the building changes after it is purchased by someone else,” Gronau said. “That might impact the overall assessed value, which would reduce the property tax revenue from that site. The other projected minimal impact would be on utility revenue. We’ve already adjusted that since they’ve been shut down for a month-and-a-half.”
Wausaukee Composites is a subsidiary of Sintex Industries, Ltd., a multi-national manufacturer and distributor of structural plastics and textiles, with manufacturing operations located in North America, Europe, North Africa and India.