Small towns in area feel sting of job losses

10/20/2006
BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Plastech plants in Bryan and in Napoleon are to close by year's end.
Plastech plants in Bryan and in Napoleon are to close by year's end.

Not only does Continental Structural Plastics plan to eliminate two-thirds of its Carey workforce, or about 230 jobs, it is the third major Wyandot County factory to announce layoffs this year.

The other two factories closing, both in Upper Sandusky, will take away 550 jobs. All three operations make auto parts, long a backbone of the small northwest Ohio county - and increasingly a liability.

"I'm afraid it's going to turn into a very big problem, eventually," said Wyandot County Commissioner Joyce Morehart.

Metro Toledo is facing manufacturing job losses from shifts in the auto and other industries, such as the planned 2008 closure of Ford Motor Co.'s stamping plant in Maumee, with 700 jobs.

But a number of small communities throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are being hit hard with announcements this year, too.

Cuts at Ford and other major companies are trickling down to small and medium-sized operations as well as to smaller communities, said Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica Bank in Detroit.

"There's no question that these kinds of companies are a very important part of the economy," he said. "There are a lot of untold stories that are out there."

The ConAgra factory in Archbold is to shut next year.
The ConAgra factory in Archbold is to shut next year.

This week, Plastech Engineered Products Co. informed the state it is closing its second plant in far northwestern Ohio, eliminating 600 jobs in Napoleon and Bryan by year's end.

Competition and changing business conditions led to the upcoming demise of the 350-employee Bryan plant, said a company spokesman who declined to elaborate.

In nearby Archbold in Fulton County, ConAgra Foods Inc. is closing a factory next year, idling 400 workers.

In Allen County, Spencerville is losing two auto-related factories and about 350 jobs. MacDonald's Industrial Products Inc. closed this summer, and Spencerville Met-

al Systems LLC is to shut in December.

Closure of the 135-employee Tower Automotive Inc. factory in Upper Sandusky will take some of the county's best-paying manufacturing jobs, according to commissioners. Top jobs there have hourly wages in the high teens.

Wyandot County has lost about 10 factories in as many years, although other operations are doing well and even are expanding, Ms. Morehart said. The Blackhawk Automotive Plastics Inc. closure will eliminate about 400 jobs.

"The thing is, we're in the same [situation] as all the surrounding counties," Ms. Morehart said.

Other auto-related operations in the region that have closed or will close include the Ottawa Rubber Co. factory in Bradner, Ohio, with 70 workers; the M&S Manufacturing Inc. plant in Hudson, Mich., with 135 employees; and E and L Transport Co. in Fostoria, with 70 jobs.

Still, not all losses in metro Toledo and the region can be blamed on the auto industry.

Besides ConAgra's snack-foods packaging operation, Bellevue will be affected by closure of Allied Air Enterprises' closure of a heating and air conditioning equipment plant by year's end.

Although Sandusky County has lost or will lose 400 jobs in Bellevue and 270 TRW Automotive positions are to be cut in Kingsway this year, more than 1,000 jobs are being added at Whirlpool Corp.'s Clyde plant and other operations, said Wes Farbach, executive director of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corp. "But it still doesn't make it any easier for the people who end up losing their positions," he said. "It's just so unsettling."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.