Verona plant rehires laid-off workers

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A plant in Verona has seen a reversal of fortune. Just three months after laying off 20 percent of its work force in Verona, McQuay International, a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of commercial air-conditioning and heating units, announced in early January that it was hiring them all back.

The reason? Unexpected demand for the company’s two newest air conditioning products, Magnitude and Pathfinder. Those products and the company’s quiet air chillers are manufactured exclusively at the Verona plant. Their target market is large customers such as schools, hospitals and big office buildings.

“The success in our orders went way beyond our projections,” says J.C. Campbell, spokesperson for McQuay, a division of Daiken Industries. “We were extremely surprised by it. If we had any inkling at all, we probably would never have laid off those workers.”
Campbell says the overall market for new commercial HVAC products is flat. Nonetheless, many large companies and institutions have decided to retrofit their air-conditioning units with more energy-efficient products to guard against rising utility expenses and take advantage of federal tax credits provided in the stimulus legislation.

“Our experience here goes to show that even in a depressed economy, if you can build a better mousetrap, it will sell,” Campbell says.

All but two of the original 48 workers who lost their jobs came back to work (the other two positions will be filled through hiring). The plant, which is currently working at capacity with 244 employees, is the seventh largest employer in Augusta County.

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