Titan closes stores; Bowdle, Britton locations affected

Farm Forum

A 33-year employee at the Titan Machinery store in Bowdle said Tuesday that he and nine others are out of a job after the company closed the store Monday afternoon.

Scott Weiszhaar, a former parts manager, said employees were alerted to a meeting at 3 p.m., during which it was announced that the store was closing.

“We had meat cooked and tables ready for our open house that was supposed to be today,” Weiszhaar said Tuesday afternoon. “Nobody knew anything before the meeting. We were told to gather our things and leave. They locked the doors, and that was that.”

In addition to its Bowdle location, Titan spokesman Kelly Larson said the Britton store was also closed. In a news release and additional fourth-quarter financial report for fiscal year 2015, the company described the cutback measures as necessary due to an industrywide decline in agriculture and construction revenue.

Store closings, layoffs and open positions that will not be filled at the company represent 14 percent of its total workforce, according to the release.

Titan CEO David Meyer said in a phone interview that those who lost their jobs received a severance package, adding that the decision was difficult.

“Consolidating stores and impacting people’s lives is a very difficult decision that we do not take lightly,” Meyer in the release. “We have a responsibility to stay ahead of the challenging business climate, operate efficiently and effectively and position our company for long-term growth. We made a decision based on market conditions.”

Weiszhaar, a lifelong Bowdle resident, said the closing is a blow to the small community.

“From what I know, one out of the 10 employees we had is moving to another position with Titan,” Weiszhaar said of his co-workers in Bowdle. “Everyone but one person lives in Bowdle. I’m disappointed, of course. We were told to hand in our cellphones and our keys. I had my personal contacts on that phone. We didn’t have warning to clean up orders or anything, and we have stuff that is torn up in the shop.”

Meyer declined to comment on how many employees total lost their jobs in Bowdle and Britton, but said he believes there is support in place to help those individuals land on their feet.

“We have a track record of taking care of our employees,” Meyer said in the phone interview. “There’s a lot of compassion to those employees. We are providing the severance package, which includes benefits and resources to find new employment. We definitely have a concern for our employees.”

Steve Noack, who serves as general counsel for Titan, said the decision to close and/or consolidate stores was made by the company’s board on Thursday. Of the timing and handling of the announcement of the layoffs, Meyer said there were reasons for the route the company took.

“A lot of thought was put into this,” Meyer said. “It had to be done all at the same time. Word travels fast. We had to think about our customers, too, because we’re not that far away from spring work. We needed a support plan for our customers, too. Being a publicly traded company, we couldn’t have anybody trading our stock on this news. It was difficult, but it had to be done the way it was done.”

Larson said the Titan human resources department has a plan in place to offer former employees opportunities to retrieve personal information that may have been on company-issued cellphones. Meyer said that customers of the Bowdle and Britton stores would be steered to the Titan location in Aberdeen.

Titan purchased the Bowdle store, which was then known as Haberer’s Implement, from Weiszhaar’s father, DeWayne Weiszhaar, in 2012.

“I certainly don’t understand why they decided to close the store, because it was profitable,” the elder Weiszhaar said. “I was there on Monday morning, and it was business as usual. Everybody was talking about the open house they were set to have. This is going to hurt the town.”

The cutbacks were company-wide, according to Titan officials. They included downsizing at the company’s West Fargo, N.D., headquarters. In the company’s longer, financially centered release posted on its website Monday, a pre-tax loss of $37 million is predicted for the fourth quarter of this fiscal year.

“I feel bad for the customers,” Scott Weiszhaar said. “Over the years, they became like family. This was a big asset for the community, and now it’s gone. It’s a sad day.”

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