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JLG to lay off about 270 more Pa. workers

November 19, 2008|By DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. -- JLG Industries, Fulton County's largest employer, will be laying off about 270 more Pennsylvania workers in January while the company is at the same time expanding its presence in Asia with the announcement that it has broken ground on a plant in China.

The company has notified a Rapid Response Team with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry that 146 workers will be laid off at the McConnellsburg plant in Fulton County, 111 more at its Shippensburg, Pa., facility and a dozen people at its Bedford, Pa., operation, department spokesman Justin Fleming said. The layoffs will take place through January, he said.

"We did announce our third downsizing of the year on Tuesday," said Kirsten Skyba, JLG's vice president of global marketing. Skyba said she could not comment on numbers of people being laid off at specific facilities, but that the previous two layoffs affected about 500 full- and part-time production and salaried workers worldwide.

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The cuts that will take place through the end of January will raise that number to about 1,400 people, or 30 percent of JLG's worldwide work force, Skyba said.

"We've seen a particularly strong downturn in Europe, which has now followed the slowdown in North America," said Craig Paylor, JLG president and executive vice president of Oshkosh Corp., which purchased JLG in 2006 for $3.2 billion.

"Financial instability, credit availability and continued weak construction continue to drive lower demand for our products globally. Since late August, when we realigned our production and employment levels for the second time this year, conditions have worsened for the near term," Paylor said in a statement issued Wednesday. "Customers have simply become very cautious during this period of economic uncertainty."

"We're largely affected across the board," said Skyba, noting that the slowdown has affected all product lines. The company designs, manufactures and markets aerial work platforms, telehandlers and other equipment under the JLG, SkyTrak and Lull brand names.

"Our Rapid Response folks have worked very well with (JLG) in the past," Fleming said. Team members will set up meetings with employees to provide them with information about services available through Pennsylvania CareerLink offices, as well as unemployment benefits.

In addition to Pennsylvania, JLG has facilities in Ohio, North Dakota, Belgium, France and Romania, and the company announced Wednesday that it broke ground on a manufacturing facility in Tianjin, China.

The plant is part of "Oshkosh Corporation's strategic business initiatives to meet the demands of a global economy and the growing demand for aerial work platforms in the Chinese and Asian markets," according to a JLG press release.

"We have chosen to expand in China because we believe the Asian market holds tremendous long-term potential for our access equipment," Paylor said in a separate release about the China plant. JLG has sold its products in Asia for years and opened a Beijing office in 2002, according to the release.

"This locally produced product will give Oshkosh a distinct strategic advantage in a very aggressive, competitive Asian landscape," Oshkosh Chairman Robert G. Bohn said in the release.

In January 2006, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell visited the McConnellsburg plant to announce $4.8 million in state grants to JLG to expand its McConnellsburg and Shippensburg plants. At the time, company officials said about 2,200 people worked in McConnellsburg and 200 in Shippensburg and that the expansion would add more than 500 jobs between the two facilities.

"I'm not sure long term what the effect of the Chinese investment means for JLG's Pennsylvania operations," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. "As the world's leading emerging market, every major manufacturer in the world has a presence" in China, he said.

Ross said he is hopeful that Oshkosh and JLG will increase North American production once the credit crisis and construction slump have passed.

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