By Leslie H. Dixon
OXFORD — At least 22 former employees of Keiser Homes have been rehired by other companies after the company shuttered in early May, according to Julie D. Rabinowitz, director of policy, operations and communication with the Maine Department of Labor.
Others are expected to attend the Lewiston Career Center Job Fair on Monday, June 6. The information about the June 6 Job Fair has been provided to those individuals who are still filing unemployment claims and are registered on the Maine Job Bank, said Rabinowitz.
A total of 120 employees, some with as many as 20 years of service, were left unexpectedly unemployed on May 5, when Keiser Homes owner, Innovative Building Systems of Pennsylvania, announced internally it was shutting down the plant that has been in Oxford for nearly 30 years.
Innovative Building Systems’ Excel Homes of Pennsylvania, which bought the local company in 2013, had four other plants and employed more than 800 workers, building more than 28,000 homes per year, according to the company’s website. Production has apparently ceased at all five plants since IBS filed for bankruptcy.
The majority of Keiser Home workers had already been laid off — on a temporary basis — within the previous three weeks and on May 5 the remaining employees were told the business was closing immediately and permanently. No severance packages were offered, and a few employees said they lost as much as a month’s vacation pay.
Rabinowitz said 41 former Keiser Home employees attended the Rapid Response session at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on May 10. At the Rapid Response session 20 employers offered job openings specifically in response to the news of that layoff, she said.
“We know that at least 22 of the workers have been hired by at least two companies but that number only reflects those who were working with us to facilitate re-employment,“ Rabinowitz said.
The companies included Schiavi Custom Builders in Oxford, one of the first local companies to step up with an offer of help, and KBS Builders Inc. in Paris, another longtime modular home, commercial and industrial building company.
Bonney Temp Services also hired some of the workers, she said.
“Since the vast majority of employees had already been filing for unemployment due to the temporary shutdown, some may have felt that they did not need the information provided about unemployment [although Rapid Response covers more than unemployment benefits] and some may have already had leads for new jobs,” she said.
The job offers are still coming in.
Lawrence Scott General Manager of Northstar Systembuilt in Minnesota, said the modular home company read about the layoffs at Keiser Homes and they have building jobs available. Positions are also available within the company, including carpet laying, ceramic tiling, laminate flooring and roof building.
Northstar, builders of modular homes and commercials buildings, was founded in 1995 in Marshall, Minn., as a family-owned business and was purchased by Northstar Systembuilt, investors to facilitate its growth, according to information from its website.