Vertex Railcar Corp.’s four-year journey in Wilmington appeared to be over as news hit of its pending closure by the rail car manufacturer’s major Chinese investors.
“All indications are the company will be out of here by the end of the year,” John Merritt of Dram Tree Consulting, who had been working with the firm, said in October.
At the time, Merritt described the company as an idea that didn’t work out for a variety of reasons.
By early December, only about a dozen or so cars could be seen in the parking lot of Vertex’s facility at 202 Raleigh St., and no one was answering the company’s phone.
Vertex’s troubles included numerous legal disputes and questions about why the 1,342 jobs that were promised in 2014, when Vertex first set up shop in Wilmington, did not materialize. That promise was made by then head of the company, Donald Croteau.
Croteau did not return messages, and no company officials could be reached as of press time.
Also in October, a potential buyer of the company walked away after Vertex officials wouldn't show them Vertex’s financial information.
That potential investor group included Jack Carlisle, a Wilmington resident who along with his family is involved in Wilmington-area real estate developments and owns an ethanol plant in Indiana.
Lisa Beaman, Carlisle’s daughter, said in October that the family had sent a consultant and two CPAs to a pre-arranged meeting at Vertex to determine whether they might be interested in buying out some of the Chinese investors in the company. But other company officials, not including Croteau, would not allow the group to see Vertex’s books.
The family had been willing to invest as much as $30 million in buying out Majestic Legend Holdings, one of the Chinese entities that Vertex had entered into a partnership agreement with in 2015, if the venture looked viable, she said.
“Even though we were going to legitimately look at this deal to help save Vertex for Wilmington, they were not being transparent,” Beaman said in October.
The family was familiar with Vertex after ordering 100 tank cars from the company in 2017 for their ethanol plant in a transaction valued at $11 million. But this year, they were told that order would not be filled because the price included in the contract was too low, Beaman said.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the closure will be disappointing because of the amount of investment made in the company and the hope that it was going to hire a lot of people.
“To lose a manufacturing employer of that potential – it’s sad,” he said. “Hopefully with the investment they have made in there and the infrastructure they had built in this facility, I would hope that somebody could take that operation and make a go of it. It's a great manufacturing facility and a great location.”
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