Photo above: Happier times: Bristol Compressors vice president Kevin Mumpower, left, with DHX executives.
Bristol Compressors executives Tuesday told the company’s 470 employees in Washington County, Va., the plant there will close in 60 days. The Department of Labor mandates that 60 days notice is required when a business with more than 100 full-time workers (not counting workers who have less than six months on the job and workers who work fewer than 20 hours per week) is laying off at least 50 people at a single site of employment.
Company officials blamed soft demand for its products in the Middle East market. The company, which makes compressors for the HVAC and refrigeration markets, had placed a substantial burden on its Middle Eastern sales to make up for lower market share in North America. Bristol Compressors had opened a sales office in a Dubai Free Trade Zone in the United Arab Emirates in 2015. Those sales failed to materialize in great enough volume to save the company.
The company history has been troubled for some time. A pair of leveraged buyouts, one in 2007 and the other in 2011, kept it from closing previously. Large layoffs and rehires had taken place as sales volume rose and declined over the last decade-plus.
2018 was supposed to have been the turn-around year for the company. An agreement with DHX, a company which patented technology allowing the creation of smaller compressors would, according to the company, “fundamentally change the HVAC/R industry’s expectations of compressor performance.” Those advances turned out to be too little, too late.
Local officials pledged to do what they could for displaced workers. Bristol Chamber of Commerce CEO Beth Rhinehart said one new major employer, American Merchant, would soon begin hiring 200 employees for its new Bristol, Va., operations, while another potential major employer could soon provide employment opportunities in the former Bristol Mall.