Beacon Journal staff report
Ohio’s two senators and Akron-area congressional representatives expressed surprise and sadness Thursday in reaction to the news that Lockheed Martin Corp. is planning to close its Akron campus.
They said they intend to offer help for the hundreds of Akron Lockheed Martin employees expected to lose their jobs starting next year.
Some blamed the closings in part on a program of automatic federal spending cuts, called budget sequestration, that President Barack Obama signed into law as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Sen. Rob Portman addressed the closing of the plant during a weekly teleconference with reporters.
Portman, a Republican, said he spoke with Lockheed Martin executives Thursday morning and “pushed for a smaller reduction” in Akron.
The executives told him the cutbacks involve about 630 jobs in the city, he said, while maintaining 50 to 70 jobs at the massive Akron Airdock.
“That’s not much comfort to the 500-plus people who will lose their jobs,” he said.
Layoffs will take place over next year and into the first or second quarter of 2015, he said.
Portman said he encouraged the company to maintain a larger presence in Akron.
The company told him it is consolidating operations in large part because it is getting fewer contracts, he said.
Lockheed Martin also mentioned the impact of the federal budget sequester, he said.
An undisclosed number of Akron employees will be offered jobs at other Lockheed Martin facilities, Portman said.
The company will work with public officials to find jobs for Akron employees not relocated elsewhere, Portman said.
The Akron facility employs a large number of machinists whose skills should be in demand by other companies, he said.
In addition, Portman said he and others will work to find additional uses for the Akron facility.
“It’s very sad news for the Akron area,” the senator said.
He did not hold out much hope that Lockheed Martin will change its mind. “I think they’ve made their decision,” he said.
Portman noted in a statement released after his weekly teleconference that the 4,000 jobs are on top of 30,000 jobs that Lockheed has cut since 2008.
He said in the statement that “the significant reduction in the defense budget is impacting the entire defense industry.”
He said he is committed to “finding a solution to our budgeting problems to give our departments, agencies, their employees, and the contractors that support them the clarity they need for long-term planning.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland Twp., also expressed disappointment. He said in a prepared statement that during his tenure in Congress he had secured more than $26 million in federal funds for key Lockheed research and development projects.
“This announcement,” Ryan said, “will displace employees, cause terrible pain for many hard-working families and disrupt the economy of Akron and northeastern Ohio.”
Ryan said the facility fell victim to sequestration, lower levels of spending mandated by automatic across-the-board spending cuts.
“The blame,” Ryan said, “must be laid at the feet of those who voted for these cuts. House Republicans and Tea Party extremists had a chance to reach out across the aisle and compromise, but they decided they would rather hold the American people hostage.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown issued a statement saying he would continue to “offer my assistance to help save the plant and the jobs that depend on it.”
Lockheed’s plan to close the Akron facility, affecting more than 500 workers, “is extremely disappointing,” Brown, a Democrat, said.
He added that for decades, “the city of Akron has helped the company produce high quality products that strengthen our national security and the economy of Northeast Ohio.”
Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, said he was “deeply troubled” when he learned of Lockheed Martin’s decision.
“Following Lockheed’s notification to our office this morning, I immediately spoke with a top official from Lockheed in an effort to find a solution that would keep the Akron facility’s doors open and preserve the jobs that will be impacted,” Renacci said in a statement. “Based on our conversation, the closure is part of Lockheed’s consolidation plan that started in 2009.”
Renacci said he stressed to Lockheed to make the transition for all affected employees as smooth as possible, including providing separation pay and other benefits. He said he offered his office’s help and said he will continue to meet with company leadership and employees.
“I encourage those who are affected by the facility closure to use my office as a resource, and know that my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families,” Renacci said.
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, said in a statement that she was “very disappointed” by the shutdown plans “especially since most of their business is based on work for the federal government.”
Fudge said she “personally conveyed” her disappointment in a phone call with Dale Bennett, Lockheed executive vice president for the Mission Systems and Training Business Area.
She said she urged the company to reconsider, taking into account the work done in Akron and “the highly competitive, skilled workforce that Lockheed Martin was able to attract and retain here in Ohio.”
Fudge said that budget cuts from sequestration are “causing real, ongoing damage for the people of my district and throughout the country and that is why I have repeatedly urged an end to this destructive policy.”
Beacon Journal staff writers Jim Mackinnon, Katie Byard, Rick Armon, Kathy Antoniotti and Dave Scott contributed to this report.