Rohr will close plant, lay off 100s Slow parts sales hurt Hagerstown facility

May 25, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

Rohr Inc. announced yesterday that it would shut down its 380-worker Hagerstown plant by next May because of a slowdown in sales of airplane parts.

The plant makes composite aerodynamic casings for aircraft engines and exhaust systems.

Company spokesman Mark Bergherr said the Chula Vista, Calif.-based company would move the work at the Western Maryland plant to some of Rohr's 10 other facilities in the United States and Europe.

He said the company would phase out work in Hagerstown over the next 12 months. He said he did not know when layoffs would begin.

"Regretfully, this action was made necessary by our excess manufacturing capacity resulting from the downturn in the industries we serve," Robert Daly, senior vice president and chief operating officer, said. "The decision was made even more difficult by the record of outstanding achievement by the Hagerstown employees."

The Hagerstown plant won the Maryland Award for Economic Excellence in 1990 for quality and productivity.

Steve Sager, mayor of Hagerstown, said yesterday that he "sat there stunned for a minute" when he heard of the company's announcement.

Mr. Sager said he knew Rohr was trying to sell the plant because of financial troubles. But, he said, the community had been "nervously hopeful" the jobs would be saved.

Although the Rohr work force represents less than 1 percent of the 57,000 jobs in Washington County, Mr. Sager said, the closure would be painful because of the county's unemployment rate of about 9 percent.

"The recession has hit here worse than the rest of the nation and state," Mr. Sager said. "And those are good, high-paying jobs. Those kind ofjobs are hard to replace."

Union officials representing plant workers could not be reached for comment last night.

Since early last year, the company, which purchased the plant from Fairchild Industries in 1987, has been laying off workers in Hagerstown to cope with declining demand for its airplane and rocket materials. The number of employees has been cut from 530 since 1992.

Rohr, which previously announced it expected its 1993 sales to drop about 10 percent below last year's $1.3 billion level, has been trying to sell the Western Maryland plant for months.

Earlier this year, the company had warned that if no buyer was found, it may close the plant.

Yesterday, Mr. Bergherr said there were "no promising TTC candidates" for the 57-acre facility, but that it was still for sale.

The company will set up a transition center at Hagerstown to provide counseling and job placement assistance for laid-off employees, Mr. Bergherr said.

This is the second Rohr plant to close in as many years. Last year, the company shut its Auburn, Wash., plant. The company also has delayed completing a plant in Arkadelphia, Ark.

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