Plant Needs $7 Million To Remain Open, Keep 203 Jobs

A Johnston County manufacturing plant is looking for investors so they can stay in business. Otherwise, the plant will close in less than eight weeks forcing the layoff of 203 workers.

Last Thursday, SONA BLW Precision Forge, Inc. announced they were being forced to shut down their facility in the Oak Tree Business Park in Selma. Bill Everest, Human Resources and Facilities Manager, told WTSB News the plant needs a $7 million investment to remain open.

“We have customers. We just don’t have capital to upgrade the machines,” Everest said. “One of our big customers is going to be supplied by plants in Germany and India. They knew we were having trouble.”

SONA manufactures a number of parts for automobiles, commercial trucks, agriculture machinery and heavy equipment including precision forged parts such as gears, differential assemblies and synchronizer rings, according to their website. The products made in Selma are sold in North American, Australia, Brazil, Hungary, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

Everest said some of the machines at the plant were made in the 1940’s. He said equipment breaks over time and many of the control parts are outdated. One issue is the machines are so old, parts are no longer available. “Parts have to be specially made or made in house,” he added.

Everest said a bank recently called in a note for $5 million. The company needs to pay off that note plus spend another $2 million to upgrade and replace the aging machines or the plant will be shuttered on September 18th.

Everest called the potential closing of the plant a “shock.”

“A lot of people have been here for a long time. They’re good workers. It is not for a lack of effort, it’s for the lack of cash.”

“Its a conundrum when you are at 100 percent capacity and need to keep supplying customers,” Everrette said. “But you also realize the machines are not doing what they need to be doing.”

Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver said Thursday, “I am proud that SONA is in Selma and hope that it can stay here.”