Texas firm plans to buy Vitro Corp. State seeks to keep 1,900 jobs in Md.

June 11, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

Texas-based Tracor Inc. said yesterday that it had signed an agreement to acquire Vitro Corp., a defense company in Silver Spring. At the same time, state officials, concerned about the potential loss of 1,900 jobs, said they were negotiating with the two companies to ensure that the operations remain in Montgomery County.

Under the agreement, Tracor, based in Austin, will pay $94 million in cash for Vitro, the defense contracting arm of Penn Central Corp. Vitro ranks among Maryland's largest defense companies.

Joel G. Lee, deputy secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development, said yesterday that the state had "offered its willingness to make investments and inducements to the company" to keep Vitro's work force in Maryland. "We will do whatever we can to make them feel comfortable here."

Mr. Lee said that there had been a number of bidders for Vitro and that some had indicated intentions to move the 1,900 jobs in Silver Spring and Rockville out of Maryland.

Regarding the negotiations with Vitro, Mr. Lee said, "We have talked about the shape, direction and quantity of assistance." But he declined to offer details, saying that negotiations had not been completed.

Ruth P. Bloom, a spokeswoman for Vitro in Silver Spring, said it was "too soon to talk about the specifics of the impact on workers. We just don't know."

Marian Kelley, a spokeswoman for Tracor, a defense contractor, said it was her understanding that there had been some inducements from the state but that she did not know the details.

Vitro employs about 5,800 workers at 50 sites around the world.

Tracor already has a presence in Montgomery County, with 275 workers at its Tracor Applied Sciences Inc. unit in Rockville. It employs an additional 550 workers at other sites in and around Washington, and 764 workers at a defense complex in California, Md.

Penn Central announced plans late last year to sell Vitro as part of a broader plan to divest all its noninsurance operations.

Vitro is involved in systems and software engineering services for the Navy, Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Navy is its biggest customer. The company provides software systems for the submarine-launched Trident missile, the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Aegis air defense systems for military ships.

Vitro posted sales of $414 million last year and operating income of $19 million. Tracor, which became a publicly traded company in December 1991, had sales of $261.8 million and profits of $4.5 million last year.

Tracor provides technological products, systems and services for Defense Department programs and commercial markets.

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