The recession came home to Salt Lake City this week as Rockwell International announced that its Collins Avionics & Communications Division at the Salt Lake International Center will permanently close effective Sept. 30.
The shutdown of the assembly and distribution plant west of Salt Lake International Airport will mean termination for the facility's 430 employees who were told Tuesday of the decision.The terminations will not begin before March 29, said Mike Humbert, manager of Management Communications for Collins, and then will occur in phases over the next six months until the closure.
The complex manufactures communications equipment for defense markets worldwide. It also provides warehousing and parts distribution for the division.
"This very difficult decision will make CACD more competitive in a business environment that makes cost reduction essential," said Herm M. Reininga, Collins vice president.
"It recognizes the increased competitiveness of the defense markets we serve, as well as the resulting excess capacity of manufacturing facilities within Rockwell's defense electronics."
Reininga said the company would launch a "comprehensive career-continuation program" to help employees find new jobs. He said the program would include career counseling, job-search techniques and resume preparation.
Humbert said that despite the war in the Persian Gulf, the "overall trend" in U.S. defense spending is down, and Collins is making its decision based on projections that the cutbacks in spending will continue for the next four or five years.
In any case, he said, the decision to close the Salt Lake plant was a "strategic move" and was not made in reaction to any single contract.
The Collins Division, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came to Salt Lake City in September 1979 with the completion of a new 150,000-square-foot facility, built expressly for its needs. Humbert said Collins owns the building and will put it up for sale.
At its opening, Collins said it expected to employ 1,000 by 1984 but employment at the Salt Lake plant peaked at 625 in 1986.
In 1989, Rockwell International announced layoffs of some 300 employees at its Collins defense communications unit in Cedar Rapids and in Richardson, Texas, but the Salt Lake facility was not affected. Some 4,800 are employed at the Collins division in the United States and at two foreign locations.
Last October, the Salt Lake facility received an $18 million contract to produce 492 highly specialized military radios for use in the Middle East and elsewhere. The radios are used by ground-based air controllers who guide tactical aircraft to targets.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, termed the radios a "critical system for our forces in the Persian Gulf," saying they have the ability to disrupt enemy attempts to jam U.S. forces' communications. Hatch's office said the contract could support as many as 40 new jobs.
Rockwell International, Collins' parent company, is a $12 billion, multi-industry company that builds and markets a wide variety of electronics, aerospace, automotive and graphics products. It employs more than 100,000 worldwide.
Out of Work
Salt Lake County is being overwhelmed by the number of workers who have been laid off this week and are asking the federal government for help in retraining the people.
Tim Rice, the county's rapid-response coordinator, said Wednesday he and state officials need up to $400,000 to handle the 740 Eastern Airlines employees who lost their jobs this week. More money will be needed to handle the 430 displaced Rockwell employees.
Meanwhile, Eastern employees are being asked to call 539-8637 for information on available help. The county will conduct seminars for the displaced workers at the Olympus Hotel, 161 W. 600 South, Thursday at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Friday at 9 a.m.