Vertex to close its doors after four tumultuous years in Wilmington

Vertex to close this year

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Vertex Railcar Corporation has announced it will close its doors later this year, sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed.

The rail-car manufacturer made the announcement to its employees Tuesday morning.

“They had a meeting and they just announced it,” Vertex employee Virgil Wooten explained. "They told us that they lost all their customers, lost all their contracts, investors pulled out. They're trying to find more investors but right now they don't have anything.”

Vertex CEO Donald Croteau, joined by then-Governor Pat McCrory and other elected officials, first announced the company had chosen Wilmington as its home in November 2014, with promises the company would bring around 1,300 jobs.

That seemingly never happened.

Employment apparently wavered in the low to mid-hundreds, based on previous announcements made by the company. The first in a series of layoffs occurred in May 2016, with the company letting 61 of its employees go due to sluggish demand for its sand hopper railcars, the company’s legal counsel at the time said.

Two additional layoffs occurred in October and November 2017. Vertex officials declined to specify how many people were let go, but Croteau claimed the company still employed between 200 to 500 people.

The company’s ties to its Chinese partners prompted an inquiry by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in mid-2016. That inquiry concluded in December 2016, with the CFIUS determining Vertex’s partnership with the Chinese companies was not a threat to national security.

Virgil said Tuesday’s announcement came as a shock.

"Everybody was kind of walking around with their head down, trying to figure what's next,” he said. “That's all the talk that's been in the plant (on Tuesday) seeing what's available asking around, ‘what do you know about this job.’ People are just telling their stories and where they're going to go after this."

Numerous attempts to reach company officials regarding the announced closure have been unsuccessful.

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