Gala candles employees address BOS

Pulaski County logoBy MIKE WILLIAMS

Patriot Publishing


Meeting last Monday night at the School Board office due to renovation work being done in the County Administration Building, the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors welcomed nearly a packed house – with about half those attending because of the announced closing of Gala’s Korona Candles plant in the county.

It was announced in mid-February that the plant would be closing by spring, affecting about 60 employees.

Gala North America, Inc. – operating under the name of Korona Candles, Inc. – was established in Dublin in 2013. It is a German owned company.

According to the company, the Gala facility – located in the county’s industrial park near Volvo where both the TekniPlex (formerly Phoenix Packaging) and FedEx facilities among others are located – uses the latest machinery in the candle industry and remains one of the most modern such facilities in the U.S.

Employees addressed the board about the closing and presented a petition which asked the board to consider leasing the candle facility to Milkhouse Candles – an Iowa-based candle company.

She said allowing Milkhouse to lease and operate the facility would have the affect of retention of current employees and “the high potential to create new jobs” that would lead to economic growth in the future for Pulaski County and the surrounding area.

“We trust you’ll make the best decision for the families relying on jobs that are vanishing from our area,” she said.

One employee told the board that in March 2022 Gala lost a huge contract with Walmart “when our sister company in India had a ‘major quality problem’ which led Walmart to drop all Gala products.

She said since then she has watched the Dublin Gala employees give everything they had to keep the local facility going.

“This place means the world to us. It’s our livelihood, our family, it’s like a family and I just ask that you look at their faces and think about everything we’ve put into this company and give us one more chance to prove that we can make a quality product and bring great jobs to Pulaski,” she said.

Board Chairman Laura Walters responded that the board is worried about their jobs.

“I’ve done some following up today.  We’ve had a couple of job fairs and there is another one next week on April 3 at New River Community College and Rapid Response will be in there working with you to get you signed up with Job Search.

“I understand about half of you have already gotten jobs,” Walters said she had been told.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said the county has worked very closely over the years with Gala.

“We care immensely about every one of these employees,” Sweet said, adding the county “values and cherishes” their contributions to our workforce.

“We have exhausted all efforts to support Gala.  Gala is divesting their operations. They are a private equity company who is looking for suitors out there in the marketplace.

“We have talked to various suiters for the facility. Milkhouse Candles is one we’ve been in conversation with, but there have been others. There are a variety of different ways to support the continuation of operations in candle making here in the county.

“Some of the details associated with this subject matter are not accurate,” Sweet said. “I’d be happy to further discuss those inaccuracies for what makes this particular project difficult. There’s more to this than the employees have had shared with them.”

Sweet said he’d be happy to spend some time with these folks sharing that information with them.

“This is important to us,” he said.

Sweet said there is still hope to seek a candle making factory to continue in Pulaski County, but “we have to find a different approach to what is currently being considered.”

Another speaker told the board the information that had been given to Walters about half the employees already finding other jobs was incorrect.

Another employee, Linda Thompson, questioned “If Pulaski County can’t replace the pool house at Randolph Park, how can they put a rec center at this location (candle factory).”

In response to her mention of a rec center, Sweet said this week that, “The county is looking for the best use of that facility. We don’t have any plans yet because we haven’t even hired an architect or engineer to do any analysis. So, we’ve been waiting to really disclose what we are going to do because we don’t know exactly what we are going to do yet.”

“We disclosed to Milkhouse Candle that we are looking at re-visiting a plan from 14 years ago to convert that building to a rec center and they weaponized that against us,” Sweet said.

“They made it sound like we just refused to lease the building to them so they could continue operations and that isn’t the case.

“Gala is the one going out of business. They are a German private equity company. The county has done nothing wrong in all of this, but somehow we’ve become the villain.

“We’ve been very supportive to Gala. We leased that building cheaply to Gala for years and now Gala is going out of business – not because of anything the county did or didn’t do.

“History will show we did the right thing,” Sweet said.