Merger closes Mennonite Publishing Network, moves operation to Virginia
After operating for more than 100 years in Scottdale, the Mennonite Publishing Network — formerly the Mennonite Publishing House — will close by the end of this month, taking a few workers with it and leaving others to find new jobs.
The business was originally started as a printing facility and was created to publish books for Mennonite churches, said Neal Weaver of Scottdale, who has worked for the company for 25 years.
"We did our own printing and binding and had all of the different departments (editorial, design, shipping and warehouse) under one roof," he said. "But in 2002, with the market and climate being what it was, we had to sub out some of our work, so we were no longer printing at the facility, but we were publishing."
Many employees were let go in early 2002, but former editor David Garber of Scottdale said some were let go earlier and some later with progressive downsizing.
Russ Eanes, director of finance and operations at the Scottdale facility, said they decided to vacate the building in 2003, but they couldn't sell it so they decided to stay until some other option arose.
That option came in September last year, when the boards of the Mennonite Publishing Network and the Mennonite Mission Network decided to merge with Third Way Media, a publishing company in Harrisonburg, Va., to form the new company MennoMedia.
Eanes will become its executive director July 1.
"The company we're merging with owns a building, so that kind of helped with the decision," Eanes said.
Once drawing talent from all over the United States and Canada and filling three Mennonite Churches in town with its workers, the company was an important part of local history. "Scottdale's Centennial Anniversary" book called it the town's "longest lasting and most widely known local industry."
"The Mennonite Publishing Company which evolved from this humble beginning (1905 Aaron Loucks) was incorporated in 1908 and since 1921 has erected the buildings housing the present modern printing plant. The volume of printed material shipped from this plant all over the world is responsible for the Class 1 rating of the Scottdale Post Office," the article said.
Eanes said they unexpectedly found a buyer for the building, that's locally known as "the Pub." The Wellspring Church in Dawson plans to buy the building and Eanes said they expect to close this week.
Eanes said that he's not surprised that the merger had to happen.
"Scottdale used to be a church center for the Mennonites, but today the opportunities are fewer," Eanes said.
Unfortunately, Barb Barazini, an assistant controller in accounting, and eight others will be losing their jobs with the merger.
An employee for nine years, Barazini said she didn't have the option to transfer and is looking for a new job with not much luck.
"I live in Connellsville, so this was a lot closer of a commute for work than I'm sure it will be if and when I get another job," she said.
Five individuals will be making the move to Harrisonburg, including Weaver and Eanes.
While Weaver himself is moving to Harrisonburg now, his wife and youngest daughter will stay in Scottdale for another year.
"My first daughter is in college in Harrisonburg, so that's nice, but my second daughter is a senior in high school next year, and my wife and I agreed it would be brutal to pull her out of her senior year of high school."
Eanes has made many job-related moves over the years, but is hoping this will be his last. He sold his house in Scottdale and purchased one in Virginia.
Weaver admitted he had mixed feeling when he heard the close was coming.
"Our long-term work place was being shut down and lots of people are losing their jobs," he said. "I can't say that it was great news, but on the other hand, as far as the organization itself goes, the move is generally a good thing."
Eanes agreed the merger needed to happen.
"The move presents us with new opportunities and positions us in a much better way to serve our constituency and compete," he said.
But many in the community are left with less optimistic attitudes.
"My namesake grandfather, David Garber, was on the churchwide committee that picked Scottdale for the Publishing House and then served on the first board for a few years, so that is an extra pain for me," said Garber. "Yet 1908 to 2011 is 103 years, so that is quite a chunk of time. Now it's gone with the wind to Virginia. Let's see if they can keep it going for the next century."
Employees at the Mennonite Financial Federal Credit Union located in the building said the business, recently renamed "Everence," plans to remain at the 616 Walnut Ave. address.
For an in-depth history of the Mennonite Publishing Network, read Sheldon Good's article "Century of Publishing ends in Scottdale" at www.mennoweekly.org or John Sharp's article of the same title at www.themennonite.org.
Sharp is a history professor and former pastor of Scottdale Mennonite Church.