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Mercersburg plant closing

April 14, 1999|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A manufacturer of health care and scientific washing equipment announced Wednesday that it is closing a plant in Mercersburg to consolidate operations in Rochester, N.Y.

The Getinge/Castle plant at 200 Oregon St. employs 33 people and will close within 120 days, according to company spokeswoman Faye Casey. The company had purchased the plant from a California-based company, MDT Corp., in 1997, said Jane Dobrzanski, the plant's director of operations.

"It wasn't the greatest news in the world. ... I've never been laid off before," said Stephen Christman, 35, of Greencastle, Pa. He has worked in the plant for more than four years as a mechanical assembler.

Dobrzanski said Getinge/Castle has made offers to employees who may wish to relocate with the company.

Christman said he was offered a position as an installer. He would not have to move if he accepts the job, but it would require traveling to hospitals and laboratories around the country.

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Employees were also offered severance packages based on length of service and position, Christman said.

In February, Getinge/Castle bought MTP Custom Machinery Corp. of Niagara Falls, N.Y. As a result of that purchase, the company statement said it will move all washer manufacturing to Rochester.

Christman said workers were notified Tuesday of the closure. "We kind of saw it coming, but we didn't know for sure," he said.

Dobrzanski said the production line for laboratory washers was moved out in January. The company still makes single- and multi--chamber washers for hospitals, including Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, Md., and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Casey said the machines are used to wash off medical instruments, basins, trays and other equipment before they are sterilized.

The plant opened in 1968 as Consolidated Equipment Supply Co., according to Todd Campbell, president of TBJ Inc. in Chambersburg. He said his father, John, owned the company until it was sold to MDT Corp. in 1992.

Dobrzanski said some employees have been with the company up to 30 years. The 14 shop workers earn from $23,500 to about $30,000 a year, she said.

The plant also employs salaried engineers, along with office staff, she said.

"Here we go again with major changes in ownership adversely affecting local companies," said Franklin County Area Development Corp. Executive Director L. Michael Ross.

Recent closings at Little Tikes in Shippensburg, Pa., and Van de Kamp's in Chambersburg occurred after mergers, Ross said. The closing later this year of Fort James Corp. in Chambersburg and recent layoffs at Grove Worldwide in Shady Grove, Pa., were also announced after mergers, he said.

More than 300 people lost their jobs when Little Tikes closed March 29. The plastic toy maker has been fielding calls from companies looking to hire some of its former employees, Ross said.

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