In a move that rocked the RV industry Somerset, Pennsylvania based FTCA Inc – formerly known as Fleetwood Folding Trailers – manufacturer of the iconic Coleman® popup travel trailer – closed its doors Wednesday and added 130 people to Somerset County’s unemployment line. The move came as a shock to the 300 plus national and international FTCA dealers and to the Coleman Company Inc, who had licensed the Coleman trademark to FTCA in a deal back in August, 2008. “The discovery that FTCA Inc. closed its manufacturing facility in Somerset took us by surprise…. Starting in 2008, The Coleman Co. entered into a license agreement under which FTCA manufactured and sold Coleman-branded folding trailers. Their products are distributed through independent camping trailer dealers. FTCA’s closure is sad for Coleman in that the factory at which FTCA operated used to belong to Coleman until it was sold at the end of 1989. The Coleman Co. has not manufactured folding trailers for more than 20 years, but the history of that facility remains a part of Coleman’s heritage,” said Delaina Lee, marketing and communications manager for Wichita based Coleman Company Inc.
FTCA were founded in 1966, as a division of The Coleman Company, Inc., to manufacture folding camping trailers. Located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania – sixty miles southeast of Pittsburgh– Coleman’s first CT-1 series trailer rolled off the assembly line in 1967. In 1979 the company attained market leadership and held that position for the next 31 years. Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc. acquired the division in 1989 to enhance its position in the RV industry and – as Fleetwood Folding Trailers, Inc.- the division continued the Coleman heritage of producing innovative high quality camping trailers. FTCA manufactured several models of camping trailer including the Destiny, Americana, Americana LE, Highlander and Evolution. FTCA were acquired by Bethesda, Maryland based Blackstreet Capital Management, LLC in May, 2008.
Blackstreet – a private equity firm – specialize in buyouts of underperforming companies and had instituted a raft of cost-cutting measures at the Somerset facility including implementing proposals to reduce wages, eliminate pension benefits and cut health insurance benefits. These measures had infuriated members of the United Steelworkers of America’s Gautier Local Union 2632 who filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the company in 2009. Blackstreet would not comment on the suggestion that poor labor relations may have played a role in their decision to close the FTCA plant and – at the time of going to press – USW Local 2632 had not responded to an Examiner request for comment.
According to Don Meyer of Rubin Meyer communications, speaking on behalf of Blackstreet Capital Management LLC, “the current plan is for the company’s assets to be liquidated. However, Blackstreet is open to offers from buyers should any come forward.” He went on to add that, “Blackstreet specializes in turning around companies in distress. The goal is always to return a company to profitability and keep operations going. In most cases, it’s an approach that has generated great returns for investors and kept hundreds of people in jobs that would otherwise not exist. In the case of FTCA, two years of work and a significant investment simply weren’t enough to overcome severely adverse market conditions for the company’s products that persisted during the turnaround period.”
The closure of the FTCA manufacturing facility is a huge loss to the local community and – unless a buyer can be found – the closure is likely to have a significant impact on the Somerset County economy.
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