Jobs gained, jobs lost HOWARD 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 downsizing is primarily expected to affect the company's units in Linthicum, where 9,500 people work, and Hunt Valley (1,800); less so at Annapolis, where 750 work; Sykesville (300) and Columbia (60). "Even though we get Coke in here, we're still losing jobs because of all the downsizing that's going on," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker. Howard is home for many of these Westinghouse employees.

You didn't even have to work at the company, the state's largest manufacturing employer, to shiver from the chill. The multiplier effect of the Westinghouse layoffs could take down twice that many jobs in businesses that serve the company 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. Unfortunately, the recession has been a drag on the new commercial side of the business while losses in defense work attacked its traditional mission.

Most startling about these 1,400 layoffs is that they are the third round of major surgery at 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.

This campaign, Ross Perot has often lamented the bleak prospects for bright collegians seeking jobs. While that is terrible, most newly minted college graduates don't 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 metamorphosis.

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