A rare breed in the Tampa Bay economy — an auto components manufacturing facility — plans to close, affecting about 325 local workers.
Lear Corp. of Michigan, whose sole Florida plant makes electronics parts at 5100 W Waters Ave. in Tampa, confirmed Wednesday that hard times in the automotive industry are forcing the company to close the local facility.
"Lear and many other companies have been negatively impacted by declining industry production, rising commodity prices and intense pressure from our customers to reduce our overall cost structure," states a Lear memo dated Sept. 8 and distributed to local employees. "As a result, Lear must restructure our business to reduce our costs."
Lear, with more than 90,000 employees in 35 countries, said it will start reducing production in March, cease operations in August and complete the plant closing by September 2009.
Lear spokeswoman Andrea Puchalsky at Lear headquarters in Southfield, Mich., said the company's original strategy had been to offer automakers a complete vehicle interior, including seating and the dashboard electronics. Lear bought the Waters Avenue plant from United Technologies in the late 1990s.
"The U.S. production environment is very tough," she acknowledged.
The closing is also a blow to the Tampa Bay economy, which has been struggling to keep its modest number of better-paying manufacturing jobs.
The Tampa facility announced a layoff earlier this year of 108 workers. As of June, the plant employed 249 hourly and 76 salaried workers.