Bausch & Lomb plans to find buyer for plant in Garrett Company hopes new firm will hire employees from Oakland facility

Manufacturing

March 26, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Bausch & Lomb Inc., which in January rocked Garrett County by announcing plans to shut its sunglass lens factory there and lay off 600, intends to find a buyer for the facility by the end of the year.

The Rochester, N.Y.-based company is hoping its $2.85 million asking price -- a fraction of its investment in the 25-year-old plant -- will attract numerous companies interested in rehiring Bausch & Lomb employees.

"It is certainly our hope that at least some of our work force will be hired by the buyer," said Barbara M. Kelley, a Bausch & Lomb spokeswoman. "The Oakland employees represent the best our country has to offer."

Despite those sentiments, Bausch & Lomb announced plans to close its Oakland factory by year's end as part of a corporate restructuring that will transfer operations to San Antonio, Hong Kong and Ireland. The company, the county's largest private employer, contributes $18 million to the local economy annually.

To assist in the sales effort, Bausch & Lomb has retained Los Angeles-based CB Commercial Real Estate Group Inc. to market its 185,000-square-foot building and 91 surrounding acres.

"We're selling not only a piece of real estate but a quality of life," said Paul J. Danko, a CB Commercial senior associate. "And there are issues like the quality of the employees and the relatively low cost of doing business there."

Mr. Danko said CB Commercial plans to target sportswear manufacturers, the timber and mining industries and others through a direct-mail campaign. The firm will also contact potential buyers by using its network of 170 offices in 32 countries.

Neither Ms. Kelley nor Mr. Danko said they were aware of any environmental problems at the plant, although a specific study won't begin until after the Oakland facility is closed.

Bausch & Lomb was accused several years ago of contaminating land around a former plant in Baltimore County with heavy metals, and the Sparks property was once on a list of federal hazardous waste sites. The company maintains it inherited problems there, and that Oakland is a much different manufacturing operation.

CB Commercial's Oakland sales push will be aided in part by the state's Department of Business and Economic Development, which is conducting its own marketing program and may provide financial incentives such as training dollars to lure new employers.

"Obviously there are myriad programs out there, but they are dictated by the interest in the site, so at this point it would be speculative to talk about," said Chuck Porcari, a department spokesman.

DBED Secretary James T. Brady, who called the sale of the property "a high priority," plans to meet with employees at the plant Friday to discuss the state's job-retention efforts.

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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