Ashland tool company lays off dozen employees

ASHLAND — Darex and Pro Tool Manufacturing has laid off 12 full-time employees, or 15 percent of the industrial and professional tool sharpener maker's staff.

"We're driven by the consumer economy, and the consumer market is down," co-founder and owner Dave Bernard said today. "The demand for consumer products is down, and that is driving manufacturing down. We sell to businesses that make things."

The company was founded 35 years ago in Chicago and moved to Ashland in 1979. At its high point five years ago, the manufacturer had a full-time staff of 100 with another 20 temporary workers during peak seasons, Bernard said.

With both residential housing and manufacturing in a slump, Bernard said Darex and Pro Tool Manufacturing anticipated a down year in 2008.

"The last quarter was so much worse and we really felt it," Bernard said. "We get a report from the American Manufacturers Association. The graph goes up and down and then from October to November it goes down as low as any points as I've seen in the last 10 years. All at once, for whatever reason, people stopped spending money; I think people just got really scared. I wish I had a better understanding why."

— Greg Stiles

Correction: The original version of this story included an incorrect percentage of laid-off staff. The company later updated the information, and this version has been corrected to reflect that.

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