City Hall not taken by surprise over Master-Bilt closure Master-Bilt Closing
May 19th, 2020     Business Featured

New Albany, MS – Union County’s oldest remaining industry, Master-Bilt, is closing its New Albany plant within the next five months.

The announcement came Tuesday morning in a press release from the company and a representative said no other information was immediately available.

“Refrigerated Solutions Group today announced that after a full review of its business opportunities, market conditions and other options, it reached the difficult but necessary decision to begin the process of permanently closing its manufacturing facility located in New Albany, Mississippi,” the announcement said.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused sudden, dramatic, and unexpected conditions outside of the company’s control,” the Master-Bilt press release claimed. “The unprecedented and major economic downturn and the governmental-forced closures of many of RSG’s customers have contributed to these unforeseeable business conditions.”

Master-Bilt had been owned by the Standex International Company for many years, but it was announced in March that Master-Bilt, along with Nor-Lake Refrigeration, was being sold to Ten Oaks, Inc., a private equity firm, for $11 million.

New Albany Mayor Tim Kent said that after the sale he worked with Three Rivers Planning and Development District and the Tennessee Valley Authority to get some money to try to bring the Wisconsin operation for Master-Bilt here. He said he thinks using the coronavirus may just have been an excuse.

“We thought they could operate more cheaply here, but they wouldn’t even return our calls,” Kent said. “I think now they had a plan they didn’t want us to know about.”

He added that the recent layoffs of long-time employees had caused local officials to wonder about the company’s future as well.

Although it may not have been a factor, Master-Bilt lost a lot of inventory when a fire this past year destroyed the adjacent former Piper plant and nearby warehouses.

The local plant, which has employed as many as 550, was one of the early Balance Agriculture With Industries companies to come to Union County in the 1950s and 1960s. They have manufactured a wide range of refrigeration equipment including large multi-room walk-in units and other small coolers used on display floors in convenience stores.

Product manufacturing for Master-Bilt will be consolidated to RSG’s Hudson, Wisconsin facility by Oct. 31, according to the announcement, and the Refrigerated Solutions Group warehouse facility in Guntown will remain an ongoing warehouse and distribution operation.

“RSG is committed to maintaining the Master-Bilt brand and will continue to support our customers, sales representatives, service agents and channel partners,” Chief Executive Officer Kevin Fink said.

Fink continued, “We wish to extend our appreciation to our employees, customers and channel partners for their support over the years of the Master-Bilt brand and throughout this manufacturing change.”

This is the second large plant closing for Union County this year. VIP Cinema Seating closed its doors after being sold and later filing for bankruptcy with a loss of about 400 jobs.

Editorial Note: this story was re-posted to correct feature photo problems.

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