Geographics quits in Blaine

Published on Thu, Oct 4, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Geographics quits in Blaine

By Meg Olson

One of Blaine’s biggest employers will be closing its doors in the spring, when Geographics Inc. shuts down its manufacturing

“We haven’t been operating profitably,” said company president and CEO Jim Dorman. According to the company’s most recent quarterly report filed with the federal securities and exchange commission, the company’s auditors have raised “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” Management concluded that paring down and consolidating operations in Wisconsin was the best path to keeping afloat.

“Most of our product, 72 percent of it, goes to customers east of the Mississippi,” Dorman said. The company’s biggest customer, Office Depot, is in Florida. “It costs us eight cents to ship a 100-pack of paper, our most common product, from Blaine to our eastern customers. We can’t be profitable located in Blaine.”

The company, founded by Ron Deans in the 1970s, has been financially shaky since at least the mid 1990s. Deans left the company in 1998 amidst allegations of stock manipulation. Dorman took over the reins in a 1999 boardroom revolt to try and get the business back on track.

Dorman said the company will consolidate all its operations at its Waukesha, Wisconsin location, and cut out its manufacturing sector. “We’ll become a design, marketing and sales company and contract out our manufacturing,” he said.

The Geographics workforce in Blaine has been shrinking, especially since workers were told of the impending plant closure. “We told them in August to minimize the effect on anyone, so they could find other jobs,” Dorman said. “We’ve laid some off because business is down, the rest are by attrition.” The company has 106 employees left in Blaine, down from an estimated 250 in 1997. They will be laid off in phases between now and February as operations ramp down. Design marketing and sales staff have been given the option to relocate to Wisconsin.

Dorman said the decision to close the Blaine operation was a difficult but necessary one. “We have a very good workforce in Blaine. There’s certainly no liability there. But we have to survive.”