Natura's Future Still Uncertain

Natura's Future Still Uncertain

Now that the city of Wichita Falls has invested more than eight million dollars in mattress manufacturer, Natura ... taxpayers have a vested interest in its future.<br>
Now that the city of Wichita Falls has invested more than eight million dollars in mattress manufacturer, Natura ... taxpayers have a vested interest in its future.
     Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President Tim Chase was on his way to Canada last week to meet with officials when his trip was cancelled due to the tornadoes.
   About 54 employees have been laid off since October.
   There's no denying the rocky road Natura has had -- both in Canada and in Wichita Falls.
   Tim Chase
W.F. Chamber of Commerce President
  "Clearly, they have struggled. Nobody -- none of us are pleased. We're not happy with the outcomes -- including the company. Ha! At the top of that list are folks from that company.  That's -- this has not unfolded anywhere near what all of our efforts to forecast the future said was going to happen. I'm not giving up. But clearly, we're at a point where it's pretty hard to be super optimistic."
   Chamber of Commerce President Tim Chase  is quick to point out that when Natura's Canada operations declared bankruptcy in December, that didn't affect U.S. operations, based in Wichita Falls.
    "That's a request of the judge to time out. 'Give me some time to figure out how I'm going to restructure my company, in the hopes that I'm gonna be able to continue to do business.'"
    But still -- with bankruptcy in Canada ... decreased production in Wichita Falls ... layoffs ... and past-due payments to Wichita Falls businesses last year ... Is there cause for concern?
   "I can understand how the dots are connected -- they're pretty easy to connect. But the reality is, the products that were being made here had nothing to do with the products being made in Canada."
   Chase says at one point, Natura in Wichita Falls was backlogged with orders ... But once those orders were filled, he says, the company announced the temporary layoff.  He says it's his understanding, though, that workers are back to making crib mattresses.
   "Albeit significantly fewer than any of us hoped. I mean quite frankly, we did this deal because there was the expectation that over 10 years, they would hire 400 people. Well, it's pretty hard to see how that's going to happen, given the headcount that's out there now. Not impossible!"
    As for the money the 4-A board has given to Natura ... Tim Chase says he's confident the taxpayers' investment is protected.
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