By CRISTINA JANNEY
PLAINVILLE — The bankruptcies of two significant businesses in Plainville in just over a month has rocked the local economy.
About 40 people in Plainville lost their jobs when the furniture company and its subsidiaries closed. At its height, Dessin Fournir employed more than 90 people in Plainville, which has a population of about 1,800.
In addition, multiple buildings belonging to Dessin Fournir’s owner Chuck Comeau and his companies are under foreclosure from several local banks.
The market agent’s custodial bank account, which contained more than $900,000 that was meant to pay cattle sellers, has been frozen. More than 40 cattlemen had checks bounce.
The cattlemen expect to receive a significant portion of the funds they are owed; however, it could be months before they see any money due to the bankruptcy proceedings.
“I don’t want to minimize it. It will have a big impact,” said Roger Hrabe, director of Rooks County Economic Development. “This is not the first time.”
Schult Homes was a significant employer in Plainville. It closed its doors in 2008 after 40 years of operation in the community. The closing also threw a significant number of people out of work. However, Hrabe said the community was able to bounce back from that closure.
“Whatever becomes of this,” Hrabe said, “I think we will be able to come back from this somehow and create new jobs.”
Although Dessin Fournir has fallen on hard times, Hrabe said it was not because of its location in Plainville. He said Plainville still has quality employees and has shown that a multi-national company can operate in a rural area.
According to the latest unemployment rates released Friday, Rooks County’s unemployment rate jumped 0.4 percent to 4.3 percent, which is the highest rate in western Kansas.
Dan Steffen of the Kansas Department of Commerce said, with low unemployment in nearby counties, he thought those laid off by the Dessin Fournir closure should be able to find jobs quickly.
Ellis County’s unemployment rate was up slightly in March to 2.7 percent, but that is still considered very low.
Kansas Workforce in Hays has programs that can help the displaced employees, and its communications department is working to put together a public announcement that will help direct unemployed workers to those services.
The foreclosures could mean that multiple buildings in Plainville could all go on the market at once, which is significant for a small community.
However, Hrabe said the buildings are in excellent condition and would be good locations for new business that might want to locate in Plainville.
In terms of the Livestock Commission, Hrabe said, “I think the effects of any of the ag issues due to crop failure or disaster is difficult. I don’t think it is on the same scale as events in Nebraska, but it is difficult when things like that do happen. In this case, hopefully, they will recover the money.”
Hrabe said the Livestock Commission bankruptcy has caused a trickle-down effect for the community and the entire region.
Because the cattlemen have not been paid, they are having difficultly paying their bills.
Roger McEowen, an Washburn law professor, spoke to cattlemen in Stockton last week about the bankruptcy process and noted there is a multiplier of three to four times in the community associated with this agriculture revenue. With almost $1 million owed to producers, that equals $3 million to $4 million that has been taken out of circulation in the local economy.
Doug Zillinger, representing the sixth district on the Kansas Farm Bureau board of directors, said many people in his district said they have been affected by the Plainville Livestock Commission bankruptcy. He attended the McEowen discussion in Stockton on April 12.
“As I listen to my community talk, we have producers that didn’t get paid, and they are turning around trying to figure out how to get bank loans without the income to produce to pay that loan off,” he said. “They are trying to figure out how to pay their local people, so the ripple effect on this thing is pretty astounding.”
Cattlemen who did not have checks bounced from the Plainville Livestock Commission are also being affected. A group of Graham County producers, who had been taking cattle to Plainville, took cattle to North Platte to sell. That travel increases fuel costs. The trip cost $700 per load.
Hays Post contacted a number of local businesses in Plainville about the economic fallout of the bankruptcies. Those who were willing to comment had mixed feelings on the bankruptcies.
A.J. Thomas, CEO of the Rooks County Health Center, said the hospital intends to proceed with its planned expansion. He noted the hospital draws from a greater area than just Plainville. The hospital is currently one of the largest employers in the county.
Adam Kosinski, owner of the French Press coffee shop in Plainville, said he is concerned about his young venture, but has not seen a significant decrease in business yet.
The French Press has only been open a year in Plainville. He said he has seen less traffic coming through town as fewer cattlemen are bringing their cattle to the market in Plainville. The cattle market remains open, but is being operated by a different market agent.
Larry Denning, owner of the B&B restaurant and bar, said the sales at the Livestock Commission brought in a lot customers. He said Comeaus were also regular customers.
“I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “It is hurting everybody.”
He said he thought some families would leave the community permanently because of the closing of the furniture manufacturer.
“Those people, the jobs they had, they are not going to find anything like that around here,” he said.
Despite people being out of work, Denning said he has had no one come in asking for a job and he continues to struggle to find employees for the restaurant.