Westinghouse and Sykesville CARROLL 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 will primarily affect the company's units in Linthicum, where 9,500 people work, and Hunt Valley (1,800). Some jobs may also be lost at company operations in Annapolis (750 employees), Sykesville (300) and Columbia (80). You didn't even have to work at Westinghouse, the state's largest manufacturing employer, to shiver from the chill.

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt said uncertainty at Westinghouse, the town's third largest employer, crimps Sykesville's growing white-collar housing stock; even he and his wife have had difficulty sealing a deal on a home because the prospective seller, a Westinghouse employee, has misgivings about his future. Mr. Helt's sense of anxiety in his town's economy ranges from the tangible -- the tepid start for a new industrial park next to Westinghouse, to the anecdotal -- the distressed economy has reduced his law practice's inheritance business and driven up divorce filings.

These 1,400 job cuts aren't expected to have a major effect on the Sykesville operation, where an anti-submarine warfare system is manufactured and tested for the U.S. Navy. What's particularly startling about them, however, is that they are the third round of surgery for Westinghouse. The 3,900 people laid off since February 1991 would comprise the 14th or 15th largest company in Maryland.

Ross Perot has spent much time lamenting the bleak prospects for bright collegians seeking jobs, and while that is terrible, newly minted college graduates don't often have the financial and family obligations built up by people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. To Westinghouse's credit, it has sought to place laid-off workers with other firms. But the reality is that it's very hard to re-create the types of positions that Westinghouse provided.

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

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