Saturday, October 13, 2007

Toll Brothers to cut 20 workers in Knox

Toll Brothers is laying off a quarter of its staff in Knox. Mitch Daniels' spokeswoman calls the move a "disappointment for the governor."

Toll Brothers Inc. will lay off about a quarter of its production staff in Knox. The plant employs about 80 people, and once the layoffs take effect, they will be left with 60.

Manfred Marotta, vice president of Toll Brothers, said the cuts were due to continuing slow home sales in Illinois and Michigan, but said that as soon as the housing market turns around he will be adding people to the plant.

"While this is a delay in our original projections for this site, we still feel confident that we will hit those numbers some time in the future," Marotta said in an e-mail sent to the Knox plant manager.

When the Knox plant opened for business in May 2006, they promised the plant would employ close to 300 people from Northwest Indiana and surrounding areas with wages between $16 and $17 per hour on average.

But shortly after they opened, the housing market dived and Toll Brothers was hit hard.

In August, their third-quarter profit plunged nearly 85 percent and cancellations for that quarter rose to nearly 24 percent, the highest rate in the 21 years the company has been public.

During the same period, Gov. Mitch Daniels visited the Knox site and asked Plant Manager Brian Trappe why only 80 people were employed in the 90,000-square-foot distribution center.

Trappe told him he hoped to hired the remainder of the employees as soon as the housing slump turned itself around.

Daniels was unavailable for comment on Friday, but his spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said she was upset to hear about the layoffs.

"Any company that's having difficulties is a disappointment for the governor," Jankowski said.

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