June 26, 2003



The first plant closes at Vernay

Though Vernay Laboratories is not leaving Yellow Springs, the company’s prominence in the community will change this week when Vernay closes its largest Dayton Street plant. The doors of Plant 3, which makes automotive devices and specialty products, will be shuttered tomorrow (Friday), finalizing the end of a long year involving several rounds of layoffs, dozens of early retirements and a major effort to relocate the plant’s operations in the South. Tomorrow’s plant closure symbolizes the end of the company’s significant presence in Yellow Springs. It will be a sad day for more than just the remaining few employees working in the plant.

Vernay was once the largest employer in town, with more than 550 workers in town at the end of the 1970. Just three years ago, 320 people were employed at Vernay’s local facilities. By this time next year, the company’s smaller medical devices plant will be closed, leaving only Vernay’s corporate headquarters and research and development operations in Yellow Springs.

Talk of relocation plans might not end next summer. Vernay’s president and CEO, Tom Allen, has indicated that the company may eventually move its headquarters, where more than 50 people work, out of town. Even if Vernay’s headquarters stay in Yellow Springs — and we certainly hope it does — Big 4 industries of Yellow Springs are becoming the Big 3. Vernay will soon resemble a shell of its past operations in town.

Yellow Springs will lose more than jobs and revenue for the Village and public school district when this process is over. The community will lose a part of its family, its history. Founded by Sergius Vernet almost 70 years ago as the Vernay Patents Company, Vernay Labs has left its mark on Yellow Springs. Mr. Vernet was out front on employee relations issues, hiring minorities and women long before the civil rights era. The Vernay Foundation had its hand in many community projects, including helping to start the Community Children’s Center and to construct the Yellow Springs Library building and Friends Care Community, as well as providing college scholarships. It is also true that Vernay’s modern legacy includes the environmental pollution on and around the company’s Dayton Street property.

Our hope is that Vernay will not be remembered mainly for this contamination and the controversy it sparked, but for the good works the company accomplished and the good people it employed.

—Robert Mihalek