Wood-Mode closing

Marcia Moore/The Daily Item

Employees walk out of Wood-Mode in Kreamer on Monday afternoon after employees were informed the custom-cabinet maker is closing permanently.

Complaints from former Wood-Mode employees to Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch in the wake of the abrupt May 13 closure of the Kreamer plant have been turned over to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.

Piecuch said he referred several "specific claims" regarding the company closure to the state agency.

"I've received several calls," he said Thursday, declining to divulge details of the complaints.

Joe Grace, director of communications with the state Attorney General's Office, confirmed the referral from Piecuch but would not comment further.

Former Wood-Mode office employee Jennifer Renninger notified other laid-off employees on Facebook that an agent from the Burea of Criminal Investigations in the state Attorney General's Office has been in contact with her. She declined to elaborate to The Daily Item but said several former plant employees have contacted local law enforcement with complaints.

"There is a lot of concern, as there would be in a closing of this magnitude," Piecuch said. "There are a lot of questions and confusion. People deserve to get answers to those questions."

U.S. Senator Bob Casey wants to know how the owners of Wood-Mode were able to shut down the 77-year-old plant and layoff 938 employees without warning.

"Common sense and decency would dictate that a community that gave so much to this company would have more warning," Casey said in a conference call Thursday morning with local employers and business leaders. "What's particularly disturbing is not just the suddenness but the fact that the company is allowed to do this. How is a company allowed to just pull up stakes?"

Art Thomas, chairman of the Early Learning Investment Committee of Susquehanna River Valley, asked the senator if his office would be able to reach out to the company owners for a statement.

"I don't know how they would respond but it is something we will pursue," said Casey.

Wood-Mode owners Robert and Brooks Gronlund have not spoken publicly since the employees were handed a written statement on Monday, May 13 and notified of the immediate plant closure.

Neither of the Gronlunds nor spokesman David Scarr has responded to repeated calls from The Daily Item.

"I can't even imagine the kind of nuclear bomb" that has hit the rural community as a result of the Snyder County plant's closure and massive job loss. This is like a big city losing 100,000 jobs or more."

As he and others look to answer the question of how such a respected and well-established company failed, Casey said the focus now has to be on the displaced workers.

"I hope you can seriously consider hiring these skilled employees," he told employers listening in on the conference call.

Earlier this week, the state sent a Rapid Response team to the Valley to answer former employees' questions about credit counseling, unemployment compensation, health care and job searches. A total of 727 former Wood-Mode workers showed up, said Erica Mulberger, executive director of Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp.

On Wednesday, about 450 employees attended a job fair in Selinsgrove and another event with more than 80 companies already registered will be held June 4 at Selinsgrove Elementary School, she said.

Next week there will be even more events to help the employees navigate through this difficult time, said Mulberger, including emotional counseling, as well as career coaching, mock interviews and resume writing offered by the CareerLink with professionals from Bucknell and Susquehanna universities. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the SUN Area Technical Institute, 815 East Market St. in New Berlin.

For employers who hire former Wood-Mode workers in need of retraining, Mulberger said, there are funds available to cover wages for up to six months.