May 24, 2024

Norway dowel mill to close after 142 years

NORWAY – C.B. Cummings & Sons Co., a family-run dowel mill that has operated for 142 years in downtown Norway, is closing because of competition from overseas, its president said.

Brad Cummings said the mill has enough orders for two or three weeks of production for its 35-member work force, but will then shut down. The company had 200 employees before it downsized five years ago by selling its New Hampshire sawmill and buying raw material elsewhere.

“It’s distressing, to have been in business as long as we have,” Cummings told the Sun Journal of Lewiston.

The plant and its machinery are to be sold at auction in November, said Cummings, who announced the closing to employees Monday. The Growth Council of Oxford Hills will be working closely with the company to try to bring out bidders.

The company had borrowed $300,000 from the growth council to invest in new technology to maximize production, but nothing worked in the face of sagging sales, Cummings said.

Cummings said an influx of imported wooden furniture and toy products from China and Eastern Europe are making it “virtually impossible” for U.S. companies to compete, and it’s unlikely the plant would continue under new ownership as a wood-turning operation.

Cummings, along with brother Steve Cummings, the general manager, and Jay Partridge, vice president of production, are descendants of founder C.B. Cummings, one of Norway’s most successful early industrialists.

The company’s recession started in the fall of 2000, and huge plant closings of furniture companies in the Carolinas were the final death knell. Now, Cummings said, his first responsibility is to his shareholders.

“Ultimately we have an obligation to pay our bills and to pay off everyone we owe money to. We have availed ourselves of every opportunity that’s available to us, and now it’s time to close,” Cummings said.

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