Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Business

October 25, 2012

Goshen, Elkhart County officials plan effort to save 450 Cequent jobs

(Continued)

GOSHEN —

Tough news

Employees have begun to vocalize their discontent with Cequent’s possible closure, beginning at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Kate Owens, who works at Cequent along with three other members of her family, said at the meeting she feels similarly to when her previous employer, Johnson Controls, outsourced jobs to Mexico.

“They left and went to Mexico,” Owens said in front of a packed room at the City/Courts Building.

She began to choke up as she added, “I feel like I have to go through this all over again.”

Outside the Cequent plant Wednesday, many employees expressed concern, but none would give their names to The Goshen News. One man, an 11-year employee of Cequent, said the employees of Cequent want to hear what’s behind this move.

“This company is a global leader,” the man said Wednesday. “It’s no different than General Motors saying they’re going to move jobs there.”

The move is a “big deal,” the man said, that would impact many people beyond the company by impacting the community.

“There are a lot of good workers here, and they’re going to have to wait until right before the holidays to hear the final decision,” he said.

In a statement issued by TriMas, the company said the preliminary recommendation is not a final decision — yet.

“The company will be evaluating this recommendation over the next several weeks and plans to have a final decision in November,” the statement said. “If a decision is made to close the Goshen facility, the closing would not occur immediately. Rather it would extend over the entire 2013 calendar year.”

‘Best economic interests’

The specific reasons behind the preliminary recommendation haven’t been discussed, but several Cequent employees at Tuesday’s meeting said they believe the Cequent administration has commented on a lack of skilled labor in Goshen and Elkhart County. TriMas spokesperson Alan Upchurch said the decision to move was made in the company’s best economic interests.

“TriMas made this preliminary decision in the best interest of the long-term direction of (Cequent Performance Products),” Upchurch said in an email Wednesday. “The increasingly competitive global market is forcing customers to demand the lowest cost products. Therefore, the preliminary decision is to close the Goshen facility and relocate to our facility in Mexico. In addition, a move would lower shipping costs because many customers and potential customers have assembly plants in Mexico and the southern U.S.”

Union members also expressed concern that wages and benefits set through collective bargaining may have also been a reason for the move to Mexico. While Upchurch did not say if this was the case, he said TriMas will give the union an opportunity for input.

“We want to ensure the union has the opportunity to discuss our preliminary recommendation and offer any additional input they may have before the decision is finalized,” he said in the email.

TriMas will release its third quarter numbers at 8 a.m. today, with a 10 a.m. open conference call at 1-888-430-8705, conference ID No. 4056170. The call will also be simultaneously streamed through TriMas’ website, at www.trimascorp.com, under the “Investors” section.

Goshen News writer Roger Schneider contributed to this report.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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