Brunswick boat maker to cut 115 jobs in W. Md.

BUSINESS DIGEST

November 10, 2006|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

A boat maker said yesterday that it will close one of its two plants near Cumberland, a loss of 115 jobs and the second blow in a week for manufacturing-dependent Allegany County.

Illinois-based Brunswick Corp. blamed a tough marine-sales environment for its decision to shutter by mid-2007 its Western Maryland plant that makes Bayliner runabouts. A sister plant that produces Trophy fishing boats and employs about 125 will remain open, said Dan Kubera, a spokesman for Brunswick.

NewPage Corp. said last week that it would cut about 130 jobs at its paper mill in the Allegany community of Luke by next March. NewPage and Brunswick are among the county's larger employers.

"Nobody likes to do anything like this," Kubera said. "The employees that will be affected will be receiving severance and appropriate assistance."

He said the marine retail market is down about 10 percent for the year, affecting the company's sales. Brunswick wants to cut production capacity and is also looking to streamline operations after a string of acquisitions, Kubera said.

Production at the Bayliner plant in Allegany and a plant in Canada will be moved to Minnesota. The cuts, including reductions elsewhere in the company, will total 645 jobs.

Manufacturing accounts for about 1 of 10 jobs in Allegany County, but the jobs are among the best in a low-wage area. The average weekly paycheck for manufacturing jobs in the county paid $740 last year, $225 more than the average in the private sector overall, state figures show.

Matthew Diaz, director of the county Department of Economic Development, said the Brunswick cuts come as a surprise, but he noted that employment at the two plants is already lower than it was a few years ago.

Diaz isn't overjoyed to have back-to-back bad news, but he doesn't think it's as dreadful as it might seem. He expects that a significant number of the 130 job cuts at the Luke paper mill will come through retirements rather than layoffs. And he's optimistic that expansions by other employers - cabinet maker American Woodmark and window-covering firm Hunter Douglas - will help soften the sting.

"We can absorb some unemployment right now," Diaz said.

The county's jobless rate is averaging 5.7 percent this year. That's much worse than the state's 3.9 percent rate, but it's been the best year of this decade for Allegany.

County Commissioner Bob Hutcheson., a Cumberland resident, said Allegany is better prepared to face cuts now than in earlier years, when all the economic news was dreary.

"I think we're doing well," he said. "If this had happened seven or eight years ago, we'd have had no place for [the workers] to go."

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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