Unloved in Zeeland

Nov. 6, 2000
Hard feelings remain after layoffs.

"We would be rubble in the Tyco path." That's how one Zeeland, Mich., resident describes the attitude in the community toward Tyco International Ltd.'s purchase and closing of Batts Inc., its chief manufacturing rival in plastic suit hangers, 18 months ago. The reason: After the Batts family passed out $1 million in bonus checks to the compnay's 600 employees, Tyco officials the same day announced that the plant would be closed within nine months. "The Batts sale will be remembered for a long time as a nightmare," adds Barry Castro, director of the Center for Business Ethics at Grand Valley State Universisty in nearby Allendale. "Tyco merely saw the company as a financial transaction that makes sense for shareholders. There was no regard for the way they were going to disrupt the lives of people. To Tyco, the 600 employees are just numbers, and they have all sorts of numbers to justify the why of their market economics. But those are thin statistics." Howeever, says Castro, there has been a silver lining to the deal. "It was so blatant a failure that [other] family-owned businesses [in the area] have painstakingly avoided that same outcome.

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