TRAVERSE CITY — Forty-five workers are without jobs this Christmas after a Central Lake company announced layoffs because a federal contact expired.
Armor Express Chief Executive Officer Matt Davis said the company had no choice but to let the workers go on Dec. 13. The manufacturer of body armor for law enforcement and the U.S. military saw a contract expire, which prompted the cuts.
“The timing sucks, period,” Davis said. ““This is unfortunately just the way it shook out.”
The layoffs affect 33 employees and 12 temporary workers. The majority of employees who lost jobs were full-timers.
Davis said the company is optimistic the workers will be rehired once orders pick up.
“We want to get people back to work,” Davis said. “We are in business to do business and the more business we have, the more people we can hire.”
Hiedi Bancroft of Mancelona is among those who lost their job. She drove 26 miles each way the past year to work at Armor Express.
Others laid off had multiple years with the company.
“We went to work Friday and we knew the contract was up,” Bancroft said. “Some of us had an idea something was going to happen that day.
“I had only been there a year, but there are women who’d been there four or five years,” Bancroft said. “I was prepared for it when they told me. I wasn’t all that shocked, to be quite honest. The timing wasn’t perfect.”
Davis said the company added jobs in 2013. Last year the company employed about 100 people and today still employs about 130 people, even after the layoffs.
“Our business is really two-fold,” Davis said. “We service domestic law enforcement agencies around the country and we also service the U.S. military. About 65 to 70 percent of revenue comes from law enforcement and the rest comes from the military.
“With the military, many times it is feast or famine, and unfortunately we had a large contract for the Army that wrapped up,” Davis said. “We still have, however, four large contracts with the military, and we are hoping to receive a large order from one of those in the near future so we can get our people back to work.”
The company is considered a bright spot for the Antrim County economy, given the company’s willingness to invest in facilities and hire more workers. An online press release states the company purchased buildings formerly used by a company called Second Chance which, in 2005, was acquired by BAE Systems.
Second Chance was sued nearly a decade ago by several states and the U.S. Justice Department over allegations that its equipment prematurely lost its bullet resistance with age, a problem the company blamed on a product supplier. Second Chance filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 and was purchased a year later by Armor Holdings Inc. for $45 million.