"FORT MADISON --- After pausing to honor the grandson of the historic pen factory's founder, workers at the Sheaffer plant here were told to expect a complete plant closure by May.
Linda Kwong of Bic Corp., Sheaffer's Paris-based parent company, said production at the plant will be transferred to third-party manufacturing plants in Europe and Asia, a transition that will begin in the fourth quarter.
The pen point assembly department will be transferred to Bic's fountain pen facility in South Carolina, and nib making will be sourced to an outside European vendor, she said.
Molding will wind down by the end of the month, she added.
Bic announced it would be closing the Fort Madison landmark in March 2004, closing the plant two years shy of its 100th anniversary.
Sheaffer pens were a groundbreaking invention, with the lever-filling pen patented by Walter Sheaffer in 1908.
The company was family-owned until it was sold in 1966 to Textron. In 1976, Textron merged Sheaffer with Eaton Paper Co. in 1976 and, 11 years later, sold Sheaffer-Eaton to Genifor, which returned the plant to the original name of Sheaffer Pen Co.
Over the past century, the fountain pens have become an iconic Iowa product, with governors traditionally signing state bills into law with Sheaffers.
Between five and 10 of the company's 120 employees will be laid off by the end of 2005, although Kwong said that number may change due to the seasonality of Sheaffer's business.
'That's our guess-timate,' she added.
The majority of the layoffs will come in waves during the first quarter of 2006, she said.
'All work force reductions will be made according to the unions' collective bargaining agreement," Kwong said. "This means that displaced union employees with seniority will be able to 'bump' into the remaining jobs as depart–ments/functions are shut down."
Production workers at the plant are represented by United Auto Workers Local 1551.
Bic officially put the 301 Avenue H plant, located at the north end of Fort Madison's downtown, on the market last week.
Kwong said administrative functions like customer service, finance and purchasing will be transferred to Bic facilities in Milford, Conn., and Charlotte, N.C., with more details on those transitions expected in the next few months.
Final assembly, packaging, warehousing and distribution also will be relocated to Charlotte.
"During the meeting, Sheaffer management thanked employees for their continued support and patience throughout this difficult transition process and said they would provide further updates as plans were finalized," Kwong added.
She noted that workers at the Sheaffer plant observed a moment of silence to mark the passing of Walter A. Sheaffer II, the grandson of the company's founder.
The younger Sheaffer was named chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the company in 1960. He also served as president of company divisions Sheaffer Western Hemisphere and Sheaffer International.
The U.S. Army veteran, who died at age 83, served in World War II. He also was a former trustee at Iowa Wesleyan College, a member of the Iowa College Foundation board of governors and, at the time of his death, was serving as president of the board of trustees of the W.A. Sheaffer Memorial Foundation."