TOC closing June 11

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Approximately 160 mentally and physically disabled workers will be out of jobs next month when the Tidewater Occupational Center closes its doors on June 11.

Disabled employees at the non-profit company assembled cutlery packets that were sold to hotels, restaurants and similar businesses across the United States. After losing more than $500,000 over the past two years, the board of directors last week decided to close the operation. Employees were advised on the decision on Monday.


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&uot;We are not funded by the federal government or any other agency,&uot; said Executive Director Dale J. Feltes. &uot;We have to be able to make our operating costs and we aren’t doing that.

&uot;No company can continue to operate like that.&uot;

TOC officials are working with the Western Tidewater Commnity Services Board and the Virginia Employment Commission to find jobs for the center’s displaced workers, Feltes said.

The company’s board of directors will be selling off the company’s assets, including the building, and using the money to establish a similar business for the disabled community in the next 18 to 24 months, Feltes said.

The center’s cutlery business began to falter after losing several large accounts, mainly because companies found it more affordable to import the wrapped cutlery kits.

Te center also suffered because the low production costs overseas prompted other domestic companies doing the same type of work to reduce their rates, Feltes said.

Feltes said the board hasn’t discussed the type of service or product the proposed new sheltered workshop would provide.

&uot;Until now, we have been focused on trying to keep this operation open,&uot; he said.