Richmond County Daily Journal
It’s been less than a week since APG Meridian employees found out they no longer had a job, and still no one has heard a word from the owners.
Tuesday morning, a few of the former employees gathered right outside the property line of the plant and waited for the owners to come take the last of the equipment. They were patiently waiting to see if the Kafin’s, the owners, would to offer an explanation to the staff they’ve so bitterly left out in the cold.
As of presstime the Kafin’s had not made their return visit to the plant as anticipated.
At the time of its closing APG, a manefactuer of aluminum fencing, only had 12 employees left. At the height of its employment it had 32. When it was originally announced that APG was coming to the county in 2006, 70 jobs were promised and the average wage was to be $478 plus benefits.
But Santiago Rivera, the welding supervisor that came with the company from south Florida to Hamlet, said employees never earned more than $9 an hour and had not had benefits for more than two years.
“I’m just totally shocked that they did this here,” Rivera said of the closing. “In Florida, in Miami, this happens all the time but people really gave their hearts here.
“Two months ago they came and met with everyone telling us we’d have Christmas bonuses and that business was picking up, but it was all a ruse.”
Employees had no idea anything was wrong, though, until they went to pick up their paychecks on Dec. 31.
Rivera, however, found out a couple days before when he had a weird feeling about things and went into the office to see if anyone was there.
Rivera said when he got to the plant the owners were there with a rigging crew clearing out the plant.
“When I confronted them last Wednesday I just said ‘Why?’ and they said ‘Well, we had to.’ They said if they’d told people they would have destroyed the place,” Rivera said.
Even plant supervisor Mike Burnett didn’t know until Dec. 30 when he got back from his Christmas vacation.
“If they had just talked to us about it we probably would have understood,” Rivera said. “The hourly workers here have been doing the jobs of two or three people and they didn’t deserve this. It doesn’t matter how big or small the company is.”
Rivera said he truly is just shocked that after receiving help and incentives from the state, city and county to get to Hamlet, that they would up and leave as they’re doing.
“Sam told me it was getting too expensive to work here and there’s no way,” Rivera said about a talk he had with owner Sam Kafin. “I’ve been in south Florida my whole life and people were only making $9 an hour here, they make a lot more down there. We haven’t had benefits in two years, and the company didn’t tell us that either, the insurance company did, two months after our coverage lapsed.”
“I expected them to tell us,” Rivera said about the closing. “I honestly knew that if we wouldn’t have come to work, no one would have known anything about it. And there’s no remorse from them.”
This was the company’s only manufacturing plant.
In an article by the Daily Journal printed June 13, 2006, announcing the company’s arrival to Hamlet, Sam Kafin is quoted as saying “After entertaining offers from several other states, we chose Richmond County for our expansion. The business-friendly atmosphere, quality of life and proximity to other major markets all played a role in our decision.”
The company relocated to Hamlet with the assistance of a $60,000 One North Carolina Fund Grant, which the county matched.
Not only has the closing of the plant left workers without a next paycheck and no recourse but to file for unemployment, it has taken a huge chunk of tax base out of the county.
County Manager Rick Sago was never made aware of the plant’s closing.
Since learning of the closing, the Daily Journal staff has tried to contact the Kafin’s through telephone messages and e-mails and as of presstime, no messages were returned.
n Staff writer Eren Tataragasi can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 19 or at email@example.com.