One of those histories involves California-based Dynamic Details, Inc., (DDi) in which Bain Capital invested about $40 million in 1996, according to a prospectus detailing Bain’s investments posted online by the Los Angeles Times. Soon after, the company bought a circuit board manufacturing plant in Colorado Springs owned by a business called NTI. In early 2000 it closed the facility, laying off most of the 275 workers and moving the operation to Dallas. The Gazette of Colorado Springs announced the plant closure in a Jan. 5, 2000 article, in which a company official said the move was driven in part by competitive pressure from Asia.
The consolidation was emblematic of the efficiency-boosting maneuvers Bain and its peers had been pushing on American business since the 1980s. “By combining the Texas and Colorado operations, we eliminated lower-margin product lines and decreased overhead costs, and we have gained efficiency through better capacity utilization and streamlined management,” company officials said in an SEC filing.
When I first started looking into how the layoffs might have affected the community, I didn’t turn up anyone who remembered them—an experience that mirrored what The New York Times found when it took a closer look at Gaffney, S.C., site of another plant closure by a Bain-owned company.
Then I spoke with Doug Eigsti, who worked at the Colorado Springs plant for 21 years, and whom I found via LinkedIn. Eigsti remembers when he first heard of the closure. “My fifth child was due. I was home on vacation [for the birth]. I got a phone call saying, ‘Hey, don’t bother coming back anytime soon. We’re closing down.’”
Eigsti also recalled tension between workers and the new owners, who before the closure had expanded the work week to six days and two shifts. And he said the company had first planned to lay off workers in December, “but then someone reminded them they had to give us 60 days notice or else pay us severance so they called us all back.”
He described the six months it took him to find another job as “pretty awful.” But Eigsti did find work again—and he is employed today in Colorado Springs, as a technician at Pikes Peak Test Lab.
But on Monday, Carmen Boles, content manager at The Gazette, responded via email that her paper had no plans to localize the Bain story by revisiting the plant closure. “I wish we had the resources to do those kinds of stories, and would be interested in how many local news organizations do,” Boles wrote.
Similarly, Denver Post political editor Chuck Plunkett said his paper had no immediate plans for an article pursuing local angles on the Bain story—though a smaller investment Bain made in a doll-making company in the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village has already been reported in national media (and been fodder for a Maureen Dowd column, to boot).
As Mark Maremont wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal, at Romney’s urging Bain in 1996 invested $2.1 million in Lifelike Inc., maker of My Twinn, a doll semi-customized to look like the child who would own her. Lifelike hired Romney’s brother in law as a vice president, and Romney sat on the company’s board. But My Twinn was unprofitable, and in 2001, Bain sold its interest in Lifelike for $15,000, according to the article. (In 2004, Lifelike entered bankruptcy, leaving behind hundreds of angry customers whose orders had gone unfilled. The episode was named “Best Business Scandal” of the year by Denver’s alternative newspaper, Westword.)
The Lifelike story may not raise as many moral or economic questions as other Bain investments. But it could still be a useful point of entry to explain Bain’s business model to local readers and help them make sense of the national coverage of this story, which has been picked up regularly by the Post.