The Kane Co., a second-generation commercial moving company based in Elkridge, is closing and laying off 900 workers in Maryland and Virginia, its owner said Thursday.
John Kane, who bought the 47-year-old company from his father nearly two decades ago and began expanding from moving offices into areas as diverse as furniture installation for hotels and hospitals, staffing, storage and document shredding, said he has been forced to wind down most businesses under Kane corporate ownership.
Kane said he had tried since late summer to find investors or sell the company.
The Kane Co. employs 1,000 people, including about 450 between locations in Elkridge and Lanham, about 450 in Virginia; the rest are scattered elsewhere in the United States.
The family of companies includes Office Movers Inc., Tech Services, Kane Healthcare Relocation, Kane Hospitality Services and Kane Staffing Services, among others.
Separate Baltimore-area companies that are owned by John Kane's siblings, including Kane Construction, Kane Real Estate and International Limousine Service, are not affected by the Kane Co. closure.
Kane said his company's financial troubles stemmed from a planned move into two new, more efficient warehouses in Lanham and Alexandria, Va., in 2015.
He said that move was delayed when the properties were not ready as promised — they were behind by four months and two months — and he was unable to negotiate new monthly terms on the company's existing space.
The business ended up spending more than $2 million to relocate twice and renting warehouses on a temporary basis, depleting the firm's line of credit.
Kane said Thursday he blames himself for failing to ensure safeguards were put in the leases that would have protected the company in such a situation.
By August, he said, "seeing what our cash situation was, we just realized we weren't going to make it with my ownership."
He began trying to sell the company, hoping to pay creditors and save jobs at one of the largest commercial moving firms in he country.
"This was too big for somebody that's a lot smaller to want to buy," he said.
Kane said he was working to pay creditors and save jobs until about two weeks ago.
"Our bank ran out of patience, and so did other creditors, and in the interest of attempting to satisfy as much as we can all our creditors, we made the decision to do an orderly wind-down of business," he said. "It couldn't be a worse time. We had to do what we did."
He said employees' health care coverage will continue through the end of the month and workers' pensions and 401(k) plans are secure.
The firm has not filed for bankruptcy protection.
Lawrence F. Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said the closure came as a surprise and would be a loss for the county.
The Elkridge headquarters employs about 50 corporate staff employees, as well as warehouse workers, drivers, mechanics and furniture installers.
"The Kane Co. is a large, well-respected employer in the county," and a "good community partner," Twele said. "Our first concern is for the workforce, and we'll be working with the county Office of Workforce Development to help them through the transition and relocation process."
He noted that transportation is the second-largest industry in Howard County, and the county has a relatively low unemployment rate.
"We think there will be ample opportunities for other employers to provide jobs for those affected."
The state Department of Labor and Licensing has a dislocation services unit in place, said Summar J. Goodman, director of constituent services and outreach for the department, "and we are prepared to help get these employees back to work."
Kane has been a leader in state Republican circles.
He chaired the Maryland Republican Party during the administration of GOP Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. His wife, Mary, was Maryland's secretary of state under Ehrlich, and ran for lieutenant governor as Ehrlich's running mate in 2010.
The Kane business that stores, delivers and installs furniture for hotels served 280 hotels and 26,000 rooms in 2015.
A staffing business placed workers in clerical, customer service, data entry and light industrial jobs. Kane Healthcare offered relocation planning and project management for hospitals, rehabilitation centers, laboratories, medical office buildings, urgent care centers, assisted-living centers and hospice care facilities.
Two of the businesses will not shut down. A shredding business and an archiving business are either under contract to be sold or have a letter of intent to be sold, Kane said, and proceeds will be used to pay down debt.
He said the company already had announced some of the layoffs, including that of his daughter.
Kane began working as a salesman at the company, then owned by his father, in 1983. He began running the business 25 years ago, and bought it from his father 18 years ago.
Kane's father, Eugene, started the business in 1969 when he bought a bankrupt trucking company and renamed it E.I. Kane Co. He started the office moving company in 1972.
Kane said the company had a culture of being transparent and encouraging employees to work together and "fight against the competition."
"It seems to have worked until I made a stupid mistake," he said.