The state shivers at Linthicum's loss ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

October 28, 1992

No sooner did word arrive that Coca-Cola was bringing 700 jobs to the state than two Coca-Colas left -- or the equivalent of them, at least.

The recent announcement that Westinghouse Electric Corp. is laying off 12 percent of its 12,000-strong work force in Maryland -- layoff notices are to go out beginning Friday -- sent waves of fear and anxiety reverberating across this region. The layoffs may affect the company's units in Linthicum, where 9,500 people work; Hunt Valley (1,800); Annapolis (750); Sykesville (300) and Columbia (60).

You didn't even have to work at Westinghouse, the state's largest manufacturing employer, to shiver from the chill. In fact, the downsizing may affect many who never worked there.

Michael S. Lofton, economic development director for Anne Arundel County, estimates the multiplier effect of the layoffs could take down twice that many jobs in businesses that serve the firm or its employees.

Since the late 1980s, the company has been working to remake itself from primarily a Department of Defense supplier to a 50-50 split between government and commercial work by 1995. The company is now into everything from air traffic control systems to burglar alarms to "smart" cash registers that track inventory for restaurants and hotels.

Unfortunately, the recession dragged down that fledgling side of the business while losses in defense work attacked its traditional mission.

Most startling about the 1,400 layoffs is that they are the third round of major surgery for Westinghouse. About 1,200 employees were laid off in February 1991 and 1,300 more last December. Those 3,900 people alone would comprise the 14th or 15th largest company in Maryland.

Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Neall has spoken before of his fears that the county could become the "Houston of the '90s," referring to the oil boom-and-bust cycles that Texas town experienced in the last decade. This jurisdiction is steeped in defense and government jobs at a time when both sectors are retrenching.

We hope the Westinghouse employees can find other jobs quickly. Their uncertain futures parallel those of a company, and a region, in metamorphosis.

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