SALISBURY -- Roxbury Electronics Corp., a privately owned, Boston-based electronics company, came to the rescue of Grumman Corp.'s struggling aircraft cable plant yesterday. But workers were left wondering just how many of their jobs would be saved.
The company announced that it will take over the 9-year-old Grumman plant, which was scheduled to close at the end of this year. But it was noncommittal about how many of the plant's 115 workers it would hire, saying only that it would "try to save as many jobs as possible."
The transformation also puts the plant into a new market -- telecommunications -- that has the potential to grow in the 1990s the way the defense industry grew in the 1980s.
"This is a great day for Wicomico County," said Henry S. Parker, president of the County Council, during a ceremony in the plant's cafeteria. The event was attended by the Grumman plant's remaining 115 workers and state and county officials.
Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development, said the state would provide Wicomico County with a $2.5 million loan to acquire the Grumman plant, which will be leased to Roxbury with the option to buy.
Although workers gave the president of Roxbury, Yovette M. Mumford, a round of applause when she came to the podium, it was obvious that many were not as enthusiastic about the announcement as were the politicians, who included Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"It's a great day for Grumman Corp.," Connie Robertson, a senior assembly line worker, said sarcastically. "They sold a building."
"Individually, we are still in the dark," said the Parsonsburg resident, who was disappointed that workers were not assured they would be hired by the new owners.
"Our lives are still on hold," said Gloria Gaines, a supervisor who lives in Delmar. "We won't know until June 4, when the sale is completed, if we will have our jobs or not."
Ms. Mumford and other officials said little yesterday to ease the workers' concerns.
"One of our major challenges is to try to save as many jobs as possible," said Ms. Mumford during the ceremony in the cafeteria.
A few minutes later, Mr. Schaefer pointed toward the workers and said: "Most of you won't lose your jobs."
Roxbury is a distributor and a contract manufacturer of fiber optics cable components, transmission boxes and switches for American Telephone & Telegraph Co. Ms. Mumford, the president and founder, started the company in 1986, and said it posted sales of $3.5 million last year.
She declined to say how many workers the company employs, but said that some would be shifted to Maryland.
Ms. Mumford, who is black, said that being a minority and a woman could give her company an edge in landing new business from AT&T, but warned workers that the quality of the )) products and the cost-effectiveness of the Salisbury plant would determine its ultimate success.
Grumman workers now earn between $9 and $12 an hour. "Our desire is to come as close to that as possible," said James H. Myers, who will take over as president of the Salisbury plant. He said it would depend on how much work the plant gets and noted that AT&T representatives will visit the plant next week.
The name of the Grumman facility will be changed to Salisbury Electronics, and it will be a subsidiary of Roxbury.