A Huntington manufacturing operation will cut about 700 jobs within the next two years as it sends work to Mexico for competitive reasons, company officials announced Wednesday.
United Technologies Electronic Controls, which makes controls for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units, said no jobs will be affected before next year.
The estimated date for final cuts is sometime in 2018. Details must be negotiated with union leaders.
But UTEC will maintain a presence in northeast Indiana, spokeswoman Joy Curtiss said in an email.
"About 100 positions will remain in the Huntington area, including UTEC’s headquarters, engineering and product marketing organizations," she said.
Alex Housten, the company’s managing director, said key customers have moved operations to Monterrey, Mexico. In response, UTEC has built a new facility there.
"The proximity of our operations to our customers is key to remaining competitive," he said in a statement. "It enables better responsiveness and flexibility to meet their changing needs."
The work being moved involves manufacturing microprocessor-based controls for original equipment manufacturers worldwide, Curtiss said. The workforce also makes standard and programmable thermostats and specialty electronic controls for the food service, recreational vehicle, pool and spa industries.
Curtiss declined to provide average wages for the workers, who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 983. That union leader couldn’t be reached for comment.
Tom Lewandowski, president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said Fort Wayne has lost numerous electrical industry jobs to Monterrey. Logic says that Huntington, with a population of 17,166, might be less able to handle hundreds of jobs lost than Fort Wayne, which had 258,522 residents as of the last census.
But Mark Wickersham, executive director of the Huntington County Economic Development Corp., said his latest information shows that numerous workers commute to UTEC’s operation from surrounding communities. That makes this a regional employment loss, he said.
Huntington officials didn’t have more details late Wednesday because the employer notified workers before filing required notices with city and state offices, Wickersham said. Mayor Brooks Fetters couldn’t be reached for comment.
Despite the impending job losses, Huntington’s head economic development official can find reasons to remain positive.
Officials with Continental Structural Plastics, another Huntington employer, attended Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting to request tax abatement approval for a potential $33.5 million investment that would create an estimated 157 new jobs.
The company is deciding between Huntington and at least two other locations for the investment but expressed a preference for Huntington, which is about 30 minutes southwest of Fort Wayne. The company’s decision should come within the next three weeks, Wickersham said.
A Huntington temp agency can also offer hope for the UTEC employees, he said. The agency has 142 immediate openings for workers with welding, machining, industrial maintenance and other factory experience.
Wickersham seemed to be suffering emotional whiplash on Wednesday after receiving good and bad news so close together.
"It’s just a roller-coaster ride," he said.
As of Dec. 31, 2014, United Technologies Corp. employed 196,200 and reported net sales of $58 billion. Earnings were $6.1 billion that year. It ranked as the 45th largest U.S. corporation last year, according to Fortune magazine. The Farmington, Connecticut-based company’s brands include elevator maker Otis and aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney.
The company has pledged to help affected employees switch to other jobs, including offering access to the company’s education assistance program for up to four years. The program pays for tuition, books and fees at accredited colleges and universities.
The workers should also qualify for assistance from the state.