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Mayor, state officials seek options for upcoming Old Colony layoffs

Date: 5/2/2014

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD – As some local businesses can no longer afford the taxes and payments associated with owning a property, they opt to sell their property rights to national corporations, forfeiting ownership of their land and facilities.

Three weeks have passed since the announcement that National Envelope/Old Colony Envelope Company will close on June 8. Mayor Daniel Knapik said that he is working closely with Secretary Gregory Bialecki of the Housing and Economic Development Department find suitable work and to provide training to the 200 employees that will lose their job.

“This is a warning shot,” Knapik said. “A lot of companies in Western Massachusetts are facing the same issue. There’s no well-established tool in the [Commonwealth’s] toolbox to deal with this.”

He explained that many local businesses have entered agreements with national lenders, causing them to lose control of their property and sometimes resulting in a lease that skyrockets beyond the capital means of the business.

In a letter dated April 10, Knapik addressed the news that Cenveo, who purchased National Envelope in September, had failed to reach a lease agreement with Spirit Leasing, the owner of the facility.

He wrote, “The city is working with its state partners to do whatever it can to mitigate the impact that these announcements will have on local families. The state’s Rapid Response team has been notified of the situation and has been activated to assist the workforce with training, unemployment assistance, and transitioning to new employment.”

Knapik said that Bialecki and other Commonwealth officials, including Gov. Deval Patrick, are willing to “think out of the box” to find a solution. He added that they have been an attentive audience, “willing to do what they can.” He said officials are looking at each opportunity on a “case-to-case” basis to find the best alternative for each individual employee.

The mayor stated that he was notified about the closure by certified letter. He noted that the company is current on its property tax bill. Old Colony Envelope has existed since the early 1900s.

“We’re not going to give up on this. The city is going to do what it can to be a catalyst to keep the business open,” Knapik said.