LORIS, SC (WMBF) -Workers at a local brewery equipment manufacturer returned after Thanksgiving to discover they no longer had jobs.
Benjamin Trant was a welder at the company since 2016. He said he was at the grocery store when he received a text message informing him the plant was closed and the company was bankrupt.
“There was a truck on the way, and we had just put materials and things on the floor for the next job,” Trant said. “We had just hired a guy. Everything just seemed fine.”
Trant was one of nine employees at Accent USA Manufacturing, a subsidiary of the Canadian-based company, DME, based in Loris.
The company’s addition to Horry County was praised beginning in 2014 for it’s potential to bring high-paying jobs to the area. At the time, the $3.1 million investment was expected to create 65 new jobs in the area.
Two years after it’s opening, the business stopped its operation and laid off its nine employees.
On Nov. 26, the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island appointed a different Canadian company, Alvarez & Marsal as DME’s receiver.
A receivership is when an independent third party takes possession of a company’s assets.
Documents reveal DME owes nearly $20 million to hundreds of creditors. The Loris plant is owed more than $120,000.
Records filed with the court said the company experienced “significant losses over the past 12 months.”
The documents further state in late September, DME told the Royal Bank of Canada, “It was facing a liquidity crisis and that it would not be in position to make its scheduled principal payment.”
South Carolina employees said this was not known to them.
Former employee Donnie Maples said he was shocked when he heard and didn’t see it coming.
“I mean everyone was just kind of dumbfounded and there was some anger. ‘Really? Why are we shut down?’” he said. “We didn’t have any answers.”
Employees at the Loris branch said the abrupt closure wasn’t the only thing that caught them by surprise.
They said days after losing their jobs their regular paychecks were deposited, but then a week later the checks didn’t clear.
Now, weeks after the initial news, employees are stilling searching for answers and their lost wages.
“No answers. No money,” Maples said. “I mean they owe me close to $3,000.”
“Any attempts to reach the company are failed,” Trant explained. “Sometimes you get an email back. Basically, their hands are tied. It’s all being controlled by the receiver bank.”
The receiver, Alvarez and Marsal, did not respond to WMBF.
Online, the company stated, “An employee is entitled to a priority claim for unpaid wages and vacation pay, which remain outstanding six months before the initial Bankruptcy event or the date of Receivership.”
Trant, however, showed an email he received from DME’s Director of Manufacturing that stated, “There was a communication from the receiver, Alvarez and Marshal, from Toronto last week. They will not honor the lost wages for Loris.”
Trant said he is owed around $4,000 for past wages and accrued vacation days.
“It’s really as though they really don’t even care about us down here,” Trant said.
But, those lost wages and job security mean a lot to Trant and the other eight employees.
South Carolina’s law states, “When an employer separates an employee from the payroll for any reason, the employer shall pay all wages due to the employee within forty-eight hours of the time of separation or the next regular payday which may not exceed thirty days.”
Trant said he is hoping to file a claim for the lost wages.
WMBF reached out to DME and did not hear back.
Sandy Davis, Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation president, said she has also tried to reach out to the company about the building for sale, but can’t get it to return her calls.
Davis said the corporation has been working with SC Works to find employees new jobs.
The corporation was initially involved with bringing Accent Stainless Steel to Loris, but Davis said the company never met any of the requirements and therefore didn’t receive any of the incentives.
The man who workers said was the acting manager of the Loris plant said he had no comment to give WMBF.
DME is out for bid until Jan. 7 but there is no word on what this will mean for the Loris employees.