Hope Global reopens; Taito leaves company

HOPE GLOBAL has reopened its Cumberland plant, although at reduced capacity due to diminished demand from automakers./ PBN FILE PHOTO

CUMBERLAND Manufacturer Hope Global has reopened after a temporary closure brought on by reduced demand for its products from the automotive industry, as well as a response to several workers falling ill with COVID-19.

The company is also in a leadership transition. Former CEO Leslie Taito has accepted another position and is no longer with the company. An announcement about a new executive will be forthcoming, said Chief Financial Officer James Butler.

Butler explained last week that the plant closure was primarily caused by a direct impact of plant closures associated with major auto companies. The auto industry has all but come to a stop, as auto plants have temporarily shuttered throughout North America.

Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler announced they would shut down North American plants on March 18 to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus, according to Roadshow, an industry publication. Those plants are not expected to begin opening until May at the earliest.

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In early April, the first quarter sales reports showed declining revenue across the big three United States-based automakers, as well as international manufacturers, as Americans started to shelter in place and decrease driving, according to Business Insider.

Hope Global, which produces webbing and other machine-sewn products such as seat covers and belts, has about 80 percent of its business tied to the automobile industry, Butler said.

The production was halted about three weeks ago, and is now being brought back online in Rhode Island with a smaller number of workers, he said.

Butler said that two employees at Hope Global initially tested positive for COVID-19, who had left work after feeling unwell. A third employee also has contracted the illness but it is not clear where the infection occurred, he said.

The manufacturing plant has been sanitized and the company is following the state’s health protocols for bringing back people, he said.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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