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More jobs coming to JLG plant

August 05, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - JLG Industries Inc.'s acquisition of OmniQuip will add jobs at JLG's McConnellsburg plant, but will mean the closure of facilities in Wisconsin and the elimination of about 400 jobs in that state, according to JLG President and CEO Bill Lasky.

In a teleconference from Port Washington, Wis., Monday, Lasky said JLG will begin the process of closing facilities there beginning in October and another facility in Mendota Heights, Minn., about eight or nine months from now.

Telehandler production and service support operations from those facilities will be moved to the McConnellsburg plant, he said.

"We can't make an additional 200 to 300 telehandlers a month without additional people," Lasky said.

It will mean growth primarily in the hourly work force, but he said it was too early to estimate how many more jobs would be added.

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He estimated the work force in McConnellsburg at about 1,300 to 1,400 people at this time. During the past three years, JLG has had to lay off hundreds of workers because of the soft market for telehandlers and telescopic excavators marketed under the JLG and Gradall brands, Lasky said.

JLG is Fulton County's largest employer. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the county had a work force of approximately 6,300 in June.

The labor department listed 400 people as unemployed in the county.

"They were up over 2,000 people at one point," Fulton County Commissioner Dan Swain said Monday evening of JLG's work force. "I'm thrilled for JLG because we depend so heavily on them."

Swain said he regrets the loss of jobs the Port Washington area will suffer because of the shutdowns.

JLG will work with state and local officials to try to help displaced workers in the search for new jobs, Lasky said. The details of a severance package with members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have not been finalized, he said.

He left open the possibility that some OmniQuip workers could apply for jobs in McConnellsburg.

"Fulton County is a beautiful place. We'd love to have them," Swain said.

Lasky said the $100 million purchase of OmniQuip from Textron adds additional product lines and new markets for JLG. That includes government and military customers, he said.

"The strategic fit for the product is excellent," he said.

Consolidating operations was a necessary part of the acquisition, he said. Since hitting its peak three years ago, the telehandler market was off as much as 62 percent worldwide two years ago.

Sales have rebounded from that low, but Lasky said there still is a great deal of excess capacity in the industry. He said the McConnellsburg plant is operating at about 51 percent of capacity and OmniQuip is running at about 40 percent.

Even with the acquisition, capacity utilization will increase to only about 63 percent.

Lasky said JLG plans to retain about 35 OmniQuip engineers to continue working on designs on the Sky Trak and Lull product lines. The company has no plans at this time to close a light fabrication plant in Oaks, N.D., that employs about 100 people.

OmniQuip was purchased by Rhode Island-based Textron in 1999, according to the company Web site. When JLG announced last month it was purchasing the company, it said OmniQuip had total revenues of $217 million in 2002.

JLG received Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department clearance for the acquisition last week and closed the sale Friday, Lasky said. Company officials have met with the employees and managers of the affected plants, he said.

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