Abbotsford man buys factory to save coworkers' jobs

CREATED Apr 24, 2012

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ABBOTSFORD - Dan Hannula has worked for the Decorator Industries hospitality and health care division plant in Abbotsford for the past 35 years, the past several as its manager.  But never in all of those years did he ever imagine he would become its owner.

Until last autumn.

"At the time, we had been in Chapter 11 [bankruptcy protection] and Decorator's CEO calls me up and suggested that I try to find a buyer for the company," Hannula said.  "It appeared as though we were headed towards Chapter 7--liquidation."

The Abbotsford plant would be shut down and all 50 of its workers would lose their jobs.

"The level of anxiety was very high," recalled employee Kim Frome.

"It was just that fear of the unknown," her coworker Stacy Hoernke agreed.  "Where do we go from here? I'd been here 20 years and this has been a home to me."

And to Hannula.  So when he was unable to find a buyer who would keep his beloved factory open and his coworkers in Abbotsford employed, he and his wife Joan made a life-changing decision.

"We decided to pursue possibly looking into buying the [hospitality and health care] division ourselves," he explained.  "For my wife and I, we felt it was something that we thought we could do.  We just needed to find a way to finance it."

They contributed their own savings, secured financing from their bank, and obtained aid from several state agencies, eventually closing on their $1.3 milion purchase earlier this month.  They began operating as a new company, DI LLC, last week.  The plant and the jobs were saved.

"It's definitely something that he wouldn't have had to have done," Frome gushed.  "We are all just so grateful."

"I don't think you can put it into words, man," factory floor worker Julia Westrich said with a laugh.  "It makes you want to almost bawl."

"I'm in my 60s and actually we have quite a workforce out on the floor that are grandmothers.  The chances of us finding work somewhere else....  There are no words that you could possibly say to Dan and Joan that could express how important their decision was to us."