Four months after Chapter 11, Lear emerging today -- without its Tampa assembly plant
Wake up and good morning. Just four months after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sealing the fate of its manufacturing facility in Tampa at 5100 W Waters Ave., auto parts maker Lear Corp. plans to emerge from bankruptcy protection today. The end of bankruptcy, says this morning's Wall Street Journal, comes with a message from Lear CEO Bob Rossiter:
"We are a tighter, leaner company that will never make some of the mistakes we made in the past."
Lear also is expected to post a $100 million operating profit and $100 million in positive free cash flow for the third quarter, as well as announce that its new business backlog for the next three years has swelled to $1.4 billion, or 25 percent higher than it was in January, a Lear spokesman told the WSJ. Here's the complete WSJ story.
Lear, headquartered in Southfield, Mich. (shown in photo, left), makes seats and electronics for automobiles. It told its Tampa facility it was shutting down the plant over time (and that time is up). But what it did not tell the Tampa workforce, at least initially, was that it was moving the entire production line, equipment and all, to Mexico because it was cheaper. Here's a Venture post from July when Lear first entered bankruptcy and here's a St. Petersburg Times column from last November on the initial news that the Lear plant till close.
So what happens to the Tampa plant? In nine days, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m., tooling and automation equipment like the stuff from the plant shown in these photos -- whatever Lear has not already shipped elsewhere -- will be auctioned off by Tampa Liquidation Center, whose Web site for the event says:
WE HAVE BEEN COMMISSIONED TO LIQUIDATE A COMPLETE LEAR CORPORATION PLANT TO THE BARE WALLS!
Auto industry analysts give Lear a decent chance of survival and opportunity to grow given its aggressive use of Chapter 11 and finding creditors in such lean times -- all in the midst of an automotive industry overhaul. But Tampa Bay's little piece of the story is all too familiar. It's the loss of another manufacturing site paying good wages. And more folks tossed into the metro area's 11.7 unemployment pool looking for work that will, in all odds, pay considerably less.
(Show above in a photo taken outside the Tampa facility last fall are -- clockwise from top left -- machine operators Betsaida Valentin, Jean Muller, Nedra Banks and Elizabeth Rondon, maintenance tech Eric Franks and control tech and UAW Local 2405 chief Richard Neal. Photo courtesy of Selim Merchant.)
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist