Archive for Friday, April 5, 2002

Hallmark to expand operation

April 5, 2002


Lawrence's largest private employer is about to get bigger.

Sometime this summer, the Hallmark Cards production plant will add employees to its 830-person work force and become the main manufacturer of one of the company's most recognizable brands of greeting cards.

Changes at the plant, 101 McDonald Drive, were confirmed by company officials Thursday, a day after the world's largest greeting card maker said it would close its plant in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and send 340 jobs to factories in Lawrence, Topeka and Leavenworth.

Julie O'Dell, director of public relations for the Kansas City-based company, said the Lawrence Hallmark plant this summer would take over as lead producer of Shoebox Greeting cards. She said Hallmark couldn't say yet how many jobs would be moved to Lawrence.

"There will be a definite impact for the Lawrence plant, but we're just not sure of how many people yet," O'Dell said. That decision is expected this summer.

Hallmark will begin moving equipment and employees in June, and officials expect to complete the process in a year.

The Shoebox Greeting Card line includes all of Hallmark's humorous greeting cards including birthday, anniversary, holiday and special-event cards. Privately owned Hallmark does not release sales totals for any of its product lines, but O'Dell said the brand was a strong performer.

Jim Weinstein, owner of James Hallmark Shop, 3514 Clinton Parkway, said he thought Thursday's announcement should mean more job security for the Lawrence plant.

"It is probably good for the Lawrence economy because that has been a real popular, solid line for the company for about 14 years," Weinstein said. "I have no idea what the company's sales are, but I know at our store Shoebox is probably our No. 2 selling line."

In addition to Shoebox, the Kansas City plant manufactures albums and performs some die-cutting and foil-stamping work.

O'Dell said some of the Kansas City plant's foil-stamping operation also may be moved to Lawrence. The remaining work would be sent to the Topeka and Leavenworth plants.

All employees affected by the shutdown will be asked to move to jobs at one of the Kansas plants, O'Dell said. Hallmark will provide commuter assistance to employees who choose to work at one of the Kansas facilities, she said, but details have not been worked out.

Employees who move to be closer to their new jobs will get assistance, and those who decide not to move or commute will get help to find training or another job, O'Dell said.

The manufacturing shifts are being made for several reasons, she said, including to more fully utilize the Kansas plants. The company hasn't decided how it will use the 295,000 square feet of manufacturing space left behind at its downtown Kansas City headquarters, but said it could be converted into offices for employees.

When the manufacturing plant is closed, it will be the first time since Joyce Hall founded Hallmark in 1910 that the company has not made cards in downtown Kansas City.

The Lawrence plant currently produces ribbons and bows for the company, in addition to manufacturing some seasonal greeting cards. Last year, the plant produced the White House Christmas card.

O'Dell said company officials never discussed closing the Lawrence plant instead of the Kansas City facility.

The Topeka plant employs about 800 people and is Hallmark's main envelope manufacturer. In Leavenworth, Hallmark has 630 employees, O'Dell said. In addition to greeting cards, the plant in Leavenworth also makes gift wrap and party products such as plates, cup and napkins.

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