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Northrop Grumman to close plant

August 04, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • The Northrop Grumman operation on Showalter Road near Hagerstown Regional Airport
File photo,

Northrop Grumman officials told local workers earlier this week that the company will close its plant north of Hagerstown after work on two airplanes is complete, company spokeswoman Leah Smith said Wednesday afternoon.

Work on those planes is expected to be completed in September, so the plant would close sometime after that, Smith said.

Smith said she believed there were about 53 workers left at the local facility. Most of them will be laid off Aug. 26, she said.

Workers were told Monday and Tuesday of the decision to close the plant, Smith said.

The defense contractor was waiting for word on the awarding of a Navy contract to supply work to the Hagerstown-area facility, but the awarding of the contract has been delayed until next spring at the earliest, Smith said.

Without that work and with the lease for the space on Showalter Road near Hagerstown Regional Airport expiring in December, there wasn't a business case for keeping the plant open, she said.

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"This was an extremely tough decision," David Tracy, Northrop Grumman Technical Services Hagerstown site director, said in a prepared statement.

"We are indebted to the employees, our greatest assets, who have superbly supported our customers," Tracy said.

Workers at the Hagerstown-area operation perform maintenance and modifications to P-3 surveillance aircraft.

Northrop Grumman officials began issuing Work Adjustment and Retraining Notifications, or notices of potential layoffs, in March when the company warned its entire workforce of 180 employees they could be laid off. The defense contractor laid off 95 workers in May because company officials weren't expecting new work until fall, Smith has said.

That work was the Navy contract, which now isn't expected to be awarded until spring, she said.

"We're disappointed that it's come to this point, that Northrop Grumman has to leave the Hagerstown Regional Airport," said Robin Ferree, deputy director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

The company has been an important part of the growth of the airport, supporting national defense needs, and has been a great employer for 14 years, Ferree said.

The operation started as California Microwave and was purchased by Northrop Grumman in 1999.

"Our challenge now is to find a similar company that can offer the same employment opportunities," Ferree said.

Northrop Grumman employees will be getting assistance from the local and state levels as well as from the company.

Smith said Northrop Grumman is working to place some employees at other company facilities, specifically the Lake Charles Maintenance and Modification Center in Louisiana because it does aircraft work.

Smith said a decision hasn't been made on which Northrop Grumman facility would get future P-3 work.

Northrop Grumman also is reaching out to other companies in and around Washington County and to other aviation companies to try to help its workers find new jobs, according to the company news release.

Employees will be provided training in resume writing, interviewing skills and redeployment support, according to the statement.

Peter Thomas, executive director of the Western Maryland Consortium, had either gone out to the plant or was going to, Ferree said. Thomas could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The consortium helps with job retraining.

Bernie Kohn, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said the state department will work with Northrop Grumman to assist employees, once it receives notice of the plant closing.

Typically, the labor department sets up a place where employees can stop by to get assistance in beginning a job search, applying for unemployment benefits and getting information about other services the department can offer, Kohn said.

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