Plant laying off 41 workers

August 12, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Northrop Grumman Corp. is laying off 41 employees at the California Microwave Systems plant in Washington County because two federal defense contracts ended, a company spokesman said Monday.

California Microwave Systems retrofits civilian airplanes with reconnaissance and surveillance equipment for military use. The company operates at Top Flight Air Park near Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The layoffs, which were announced Friday, represent about 20 percent of the work force at the Washington County plant.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's 2003 Business & Industry Directory says 200 people work at the plant.

Doug Cantwell, a Northrop Grumman spokesman in Baltimore, wasn't sure of the Washington County figure, but said the plants in Washington County and Belcamp, Md., northeast of Baltimore, combined have 339 employees.


Northrop Grumman Corp. also is laying off three employees in Belcamp, for a total of 44.

Cantwell said California Microwave was unable to get follow-up work on two contracts.

One was a contract to retrofit airplanes for the U.S. Army.

In May 2000, the company announced a $3 million contract to modify three RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Multifunction aircraft.

The second contract was to convert small business jets into HU-25 Falcons for the U.S. Coast Guard. The HU-25 Falcon is a "medium range fixed-wing surveillance aircraft," according to the Coast Guard's Web site.

In April 2000, California Microwave announced a $33 million contract to modify 15 HU-25 Falcons. The company said then that the work would last two years, with options for more upgrades.

A series of contracts that year were hailed as an economic rebound for the company, months after it laid off 40 percent of its local work force.

California Microwave spokesman Jim Reinhard said in July 2000 that the company had 80 employees in Washington County and expected to have more than 110 employees within six months.

The layoffs announced Friday will take effect Aug. 22, Cantwell said. The positions include engineers, aircraft mechanics and administrators.

A company statement said California Microwave will look for other jobs for furloughed employees in the hope of cutting the number by at least 25 percent.

"The company will provide the remainder of those affected with severance benefits and outplacement assistance," the statement says.

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