Bradford Printing closes; 48 out of work

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Westerly - Unable to meet payroll, Bradford Printing & Finishing LLC, the company that dyes camouflage fabric for military uniforms, has shut down pending an infusion of cash in the form of more than $700,000 in federal disaster-relief funds it's been expecting for months.

Forty-eight workers have lost their jobs, at least temporarily.

Nick Griseto, the company's owner, told employees Tuesday morning that they were being "furloughed" until further notice.

"We were counting on the grant in early spring," Griseto said in a phone interview later in the day. "Without that and with the downturn in business, we just couldn't go on anymore."

Griseto said the shutdown was "open-ended" and that he hoped to reinstate workers if and when the grant comes through, provided it's soon.

Workers, however, are doubtful the company will resume operations, according to an employee who asked not to be named.

The worker said employees in various departments were told last Thursday and Friday that they needn't report for work Monday and that they should instead call the plant after 2 p.m. Monday to learn if there would be work Tuesday. When they called, they were told to report for a meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Some employees who are typically paid on the 15th of the month did not receive checks last Friday, and others have not been paid for last week, according to the worker. Many employees are also concerned about the status of their medical benefits, the worker said.

"It's been very stressful," the worker said of the uncertainty stemming from Bradford Printing's cash-flow problems.

Griseto said employees took the news he delivered at Tuesday's meeting "as best they could." He said the company has been expecting to receive $707,000 in federal funds to help offset the more than $4 million in damages and losses it sustained in the flooding that devastated parts of Rhode Island and elsewhere in the spring of 2010.

Steve Hartford, Westerly's town manager, said Rhode Island's U.S. senators, Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, had worked to secure $13 million in Disaster Community Development Block Grants for the state, a chunk of which Bradford Printing and a half-dozen small businesses in Westerly have sought. Hartford said the state received the funds six months ago but has yet to make a final decision on their disbursement.

"We've been told Bradford is very likely to be funded," Hartford said. "But we need the money last week, not this week. It's a little frustrating."

Bradford Printing operates at the former Bradford Dyeing Association plant, which closed in November 2008. A month later, Griseto, a former BDA executive, re-opened the nearly century-old business as Bradford Printing, which employed 75 people prior to the 2010 flooding.

Last March, Griseto said the company's business had declined by 60 to 70 percent.


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