Lockheed Martin is shutting down most of its manufacturing plant in Akron, and placing the blame on federal spending cuts. ideastream’s Nick Castele says despite some earlier reports the company was planning to close the plant, the announcement Thursday took local officials by surprise.
But on Thursday the company announced it was moving ahead with those plans in reaction to federal spending cuts brought on by sequestration.
“Reducing our workforce of dedicated employees and closing facilities are among the most difficult decisions we make,” Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said in a statement posted on the company's website. “In the face of government budget cuts and an increasingly complex global security landscape, these actions are necessary for the future of our business and will position Lockheed Martin to better serve our customers.”
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic put the blame on Tea Party members of Congress, saying their unwillingness to compromise led to those cuts. And that, Plusquellic said, hurt an otherwise profitable plant.
“This was a profit center," Plusquellic said at a press conference Thursday. "They made money in Akron. And the politics that are going on in Washington are really to blame. And it’s such a shame, because our 500 people pay the price.”
That’s a reference to the 500 Lockheed Martin employees in Akron the company says will be affected, out of a total of more than 600. Company spokesman Keith Little told ideastream there’s been no decision yet on whether those employees will be laid off or asked to relocate to facilities in other states.
Plusquellic said the city, county and state invested heavily in incentives for Lockheed Martin over the years. He said now Akron will lose more than $1 million in income tax revenue.
Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, along fellow Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, expressed their disappointment with the move.
Searching for a silver lining, Kaptur noted the company is leaving open the Akron Airdock, which is used to make blimps.
“And that gives us potential to build with the aerospace industry for the future, perhaps dirigibles and other types of aircraft, even unmanned," Kaptur said in a phone interview with ideastream.
Republican Congressman Jim Renacci also responded with disappointment. And Sen. Rob Portman said he’s hoping some workers can find other similar manufacturing jobs in Ohio.
“It’s very sad news for the Akron because these are exactly the kind of jobs that we want and like, and we’ve seen some progress in other manufacturers adding people," Portman told reporters in a weekly conference call Thursday. "So we are going to do everything we can to help.”
Summit County Executive Russ Pry said the county will be getting in touch with any workers laid off because of the closure. He said the county will help them sign up for job training programs and unemployment benefits.