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Goodrich Lighting Systems in Oldsmar to close

OLDSMAR — About 90 local jobs will be eliminated when one of the largest aerospace lighting companies in the world closes its Oldsmar facility.

Goodrich Lighting Systems, which makes landing, taxi and emergency lights and the "No Smoking/Fasten Seat Belt" signs in airplanes, will shut down its Fairfield Street facility "no later than Dec. 31, 2011," according to a June 22 letter that the company's director of human resources sent to Oldsmar Mayor Jim Ronecker. Some pink slips could be handed out as soon as July, company spokeswoman Laura Neel said.

"We have a proposed time line beginning the third quarter of 2010 and running through the summer of 2011 approximately," she said.

The layoffs affect all workers at the facility, from production to engineering to management. They will receive job placement assistance as well as a 30-day notice of job elimination, severance pay and continued medical benefits.

Displaced workers will be able to apply for other available openings at the company. About 15 of the affected employees will be asked to relocate to Phoenix, one of three additional locations where Goodrich makes aerospace lighting products. Bengaluru, India, and Lippstadt, Germany, are the other two sites.

Military operations and engineering jobs will move to Phoenix. Commercial operations and support jobs will head to Bengaluru. Commercial engineering support jobs will be shipped to Lippstadt. No one will be transferred to the latter two sites.

"It was a business decision that had to be made," Neel said. "We had to eliminate redundant support and production functions in order to remain competitive in the lighting business."

Neel would not say how much Goodrich expects to save by closing the Oldsmar location. The company does not disclose financial information beyond what's reported on the investor relations portion of Goodrich's website.

Asked why Phoenix, Lippstadt and Bengaluru were spared and Oldsmar was not, Neel said: "We looked at various options. This proposal was the only one that really made it a sustainable, competitive business."

Goodrich employs 24,000 in 80 locations in 16 countries. According to its 2009 annual report, sales were down 5 percent from 2008. The company's net income was down 12 percent.

"You have to look at what's going on in the airline industry," Neel said. "If demand is down, then there's less work. You don't have orders coming in, then there's no work, so you have to look at what your customers want or need or don't want or need."

Goodrich has been at 129 Fairfield St. since December 1991. It bought the property for $1.7 million. "The plant and the property and the business was already here when they purchased it," City Manager Bruce Haddock said. "The city never provided any incentives."

The value of the 8,816-square-foot building is nearly $2 million today, Pinellas County Property Appraiser records show. Last year, Goodrich paid nearly $40,000 into Oldsmar's tax base.

Ronecker, who made business retention a central part of his reelection bid in March, said Goodrich's closure "was a total surprise."

He and the head of the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce said they hope to work with Pinellas County Economic Development to assist displaced workers and any of Goodrich's local suppliers.

"We would like to help them find jobs with other manufacturers that are here," Jerry Custin, chamber president and CEO, said. "Is there anything we can do with those suppliers to help them maintain their healthy business line, too? Obviously, it's of good benefit to the community."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Goodrich Lighting Systems in Oldsmar to close 06/29/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 7:57pm]
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