Ireton joins Mikulski in plea to Labinal on consolidation

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Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton has joined U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski in asking Labinal Power Systems officials to rescind their decision to close their Salisbury manufacturing facility and move many of the plant’s jobs to Texas.

In a letter to Peter Lengyel, president of Safran-Labinal’s parent company’s North American operations, Ireton describes his surprise concerning the announcement and reminds the company of the community’s longtime support for the facility.

“The sudden announcement this week of the impending closure of Labinal here in Salisbury has left me saddened and frustrated – emotions which mirror those of my community,” Ireton wrote. “I implore you to reconsider your decision.

“This closure has come as a complete surprise to not only me, but to your employees, and to the city of Salisbury.  Safran’s decision to close the Salisbury plant will lead over 500 people to seek employment in an already struggling economy – and that’s not to mention your employees who are family members, putting them in an even more perilous situation,” the mayor wrote.

Ireton cited Mikulski’s federal backing of Labinal, as well as the need to keep such highly skilled workers employed.

“I know that Senator Mikulski has rallied for Safran in order to secure federal funds for your company’s benefit, and Salisbury and Wicomico County’s commitment to this plant throughout its history is unparalleled,” Ireton wrote to Lengyel.

“As mayor of a small city, I work endlessly to draw businesses, retail and manufacturing, to our area.  Without manufacturing plants such as yours, a town cannot employ its skilled laborers.”

Mikulski dispatched a similar letter this week. She asked officials to rescind their decision to close their Salisbury manufacturing facility and move many of the plant’s job to Texas.

“I want families who rely on Labinal for their paychecks and economic security to know that I’m on their side,” Mikulski said said in a news release.

“I was shocked by Labinal’s decision to close its Salisbury plant. I urge Mr. (Peter) Lengyel to rescind that decision. I will never stop fighting for jobs in Maryland.”

On Wednesday, Safran-Labinal revealed that Salisbury-based jobs will be gradually moved — over a 22-month span– to a hub the French company has established in Texas.

The Salisbury facility will be completely closed by the end of next year; layoffs would begin as soon as May.

About 600 highly skilled workers are employed at the 166,000-square-foot Civic Avenue plant, which previously housed Grumman Aerospace and then Harvard Custom Manufacturing. Labinal, which has operated from the location since 2010, is one of the jewel companies in Salisbury’s business crown.

Mikulski had recently worked to insert money in a Defense appropriations spending bill to ensure Labinal’s Salisbury workers had an ongoing labor stream in a military helicopter construction project.

In her letter to Safran’s president and CEO North America operations, the Democratic senator described herself as “very distressed.”

Her letter reads:

“I am very distressed and surprised by the news of the closure of the Labinal facility in Salisbury, Maryland.  I urge you to rescind this decision.

“This news came as a complete surprise to me, the employees, and the Salisbury community.  Your decision to close the Salisbury plant will cause great economic and emotional strain to the skilled workforce and the community.  It is reported that as many as 500 workers could lose their jobs. Households with multiple family members working at Labinal will be particularly hard hit by the layoffs.

“As a strong supporter of the work done at the Labinal facility, I have fought tirelessly each year to ensure that federal funds were made available for the procurement of Chinook Helicopters so Labinal had the resources needed to do its job.  Most recently, while serving as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee during the last Congress, I secured $994 million to procure 32 Chinooks.

“What can we do to get you to rescind this decision? I look forward to hearing from you.”imgres

Wicomico County economic development and governmental officials, also caught off-guard by the company’s announcement, met Friday to develop a strategy for helping the displaced workers.

The employee roster was in the 800 range when Safran purchased Harvard Custom Manufacturing. Downsizing rumors seemed to evaporate last year when Mikulski announced that she had secured Defense spending for the manufacture nearly three-dozen U.S. Army helicopters, with electronics work on those aircraft expected to be performed in Salisbury.

Labinal specializes in the manufacture of flight-critical assemblies and spaceflight hardware, associated ground support equipment, weapon systems, vehicle electronic systems, complex commercial electronics systems and organized wire fabrication.

 

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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