ATTLEBORO - Corporate and city leaders hailed a reinvigorated LeachGarner as a reaffirmation of tradition and an investment in the future at the company's grand opening ceremony Thursday.
Formerly a part of Cookson Precious Metals, the troubled company was close to going out of business last year when Cookson officials warned Mayor Kevin Dumas of hundreds of layoffs and the likelihood the plant might be closed or sold off in pieces.
But in February, Richline Group, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Corp., agreed to buy the company and its Attleboro plant with a commitment to keep the manufacturing center and its 500-plus employees working. Richline brought in a new management team and embarked on renovations at the plant and grounds, many of which were on display Thursday.
"This is just the beginning of a series of investments in our commitment to the precious metals industry, our customers and our employees," LeachGarner President Joseph White said.
The remark came in an address to city and state dignitaries, business leaders and company workers who were treated to a massive picnic in the company parking lot under a circus-size tent.
Mayor Kevin Dumas cited Thursday's celebration as "truly a fantastic day for all of us to celebrate."
White and Richline CEO Dennis Ulrich cited Attleboro's long history as a jewelry center and the contributions of local craftsmen and the role of leading entrepreneurs like the Leach, Garner and LeStage families in laying the foundation for the century-old company.
Ulrich, referring to rumors that billionaire investor Warren Buffett himself might attend Thursday's festivities, said the crowd would have to make do with the "second string."
But, he read a letter from Buffett congratulating employees and community leaders and citing his belief in American workers.
"I make bets every day on the ability of Americans as workers to compete worldwide," Buffett wrote, noting Attleboro's role as the Jewelry City.
He added that he looks forward to "Attleboro becoming a truly worldwide headquarters" for the company's manufacturing business.
Richline President David Maleski thanked city officials for working with his company to keep the plant functioning locally, and said Dumas was influential in the process.
He said the company's investment was symbolic of its belief in American-manufactured progress, adding that Richline plans to be in Attleboro "for years to come."
Richline, which makes and distributes a wide variety of jewelry and precious metals projects under a variety of trademarks, also operates a plant in Warwick, R.I., and employs more than 2,000 people worldwide.
State Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole, and state Reps. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, and George Ross, R-Attleboro, also addressed the group.
Ross presented the company with a citation from the state House of Representatives.
Poirier said she was overjoyed with Berkshire Hathaway's faith in local workers and its commitment to keep jobs in the city.
"Thank you Warren Buffett," she said. "We're very happy you chose Attleboro."
Acquiring LeachGarner, which supplies precious metals for jewelry and other products, is a strategic move for Richline that makes good business sense, Ulrich. Having LeachGarner in the fold gives Richline better control over its business, from basic materials through to finished products, he said.
"This places us more in control of our own destiny," he said.