Old Saybrook manufacturer announces it will close April 23

Old Saybrook — Fortune Plastics, a manufacturer of institutional bags and trash can liners whose legacy in town can be traced back to the mid-20th century, will close its operation here April 23, its parent company announced Tuesday.

Ninety-two employees will lose their jobs at the 1 Williams Lane plant, according to Mark Daniels, senior vice president of sustainability for Novolex, headquartered in Hartsville, S.C. He declined to say why the plant is closing.

“We’re an independent company, we’re not going to disclose a reason,” Daniels said. “Our focus right now is on assisting our Old Saybrook team members in taking the next steps in their careers. They have a lot to offer.”

He said the company was reaching out to other employers on behalf of its workers.

Novolex filed a notice Monday with the state Department of Labor in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN. The filing says the impending job losses “are expected to be permanent, and the entire facility is expected to close.”

A leading producer of packaging for the retail, grocery, food-service, hospitality, institutional and industrial markets, Novolex has more than 6,000 employees and more than 40 manufacturing plants in North America.

According to the company’s WARN notice, the affected employees include 39 bag-machine operators, 18 extrusion operators and 10 warehouse material handlers.

A Fortune Plastics employee who did not want to be named said the plant’s workers had just achieved a safety milestone, going a year without incurring a reportable injury. On Saturday, the plant manager notified employees that a mandatory meeting would be held at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“We’re all thinking, maybe we’re going to get a trophy or something,” the employee said, describing what transpired at the meeting. “They congratulated us, but then they told us the plant is shutting down. ... It was a surreal moment.”

First Selectman Carl Fortuna Jr. said he learned of the Fortune Plastics closing about 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“This is a dollars and cents decision that affected 90 people’s lives,” he said. “I’m very disappointed.”

Fortuna said Bill Tucker, an Old Saybrook man, founded the company, which made plastic bags, in the 1950s and sold it to a private equity firm decades later. Novolex acquired it in 2013.

“It’s an old factory that needs a new roof,” he said of the site.

Fortune Plastics employees come from New London and New Haven, he said, as well as from the Norwich and Middletown areas. “Not a lot are from Old Saybrook,” he said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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