One of the largest employers in Noble County has announced it is closing a book-publishing plant and laying off more than 300 workers. The news comes as the county tries to recover from massive pandemic-related layoffs this spring.

Chicago-based LSC Communications has notified the state it will permanently close its facility on Marion Drive in Kendallville. It blames the decision on “continued deterioration of market conditions.”

LSC has a second plant in the same city but said the closing does not impact the facility on Lester Drive.

“The initial response was that it is devastating,” said Gary Gatman, executive director of Noble County Economic Development Corp. “The impact on workers, families and the community is pretty significant.”

Gatman said before the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment was about 3.5% in Noble County. It skyrocketed to 28.7% in April, the fourth-highest reading in the state.

He said many of those positions are at manufacturing plants which were forced to shut down to satisfy stay-at-home orders from the state.

State data shows Noble County unemployment levels retreated to 7.7% in July.

“It was a brief period of time. It was 30-60 days of real struggle,” said Gatman. “But because we have been talking to our industry partners, we knew most were planning to call those workers back.”

Still, it does not lessen the blow, as LSC said it intends to start layoffs on October 1.

“We are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for our employees, our customers and for the community. At this time, the company anticipates that all employees will be permanently separated from employment with the company by December 23, 2020,” read the statement.

LSC said in connection with the plant closure, no employees will have bumping rights to displace other employees working for the firm.

Gatman said his organization, as well as political and community leaders, are “rallying the troops” to put the county in a position to support the workers.

“The key is getting everyone on the same page, making sure we know what those opportunities are and providing support mechanisms,” said Gatman.

The publishing company also has facilities in Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Charlestown, Plainfield, Terre Haute, and Warsaw.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Noble County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gary Gatman explained how county leaders are responding.