Wiper-blade manufacturer leaving area
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 8, 2012 9:44PM
Updated: July 8, 2012 9:58PM
MICHIGAN CITY — Federal-Mogul announced it is moving its wiper blade manufacturing operation from the east side of Michigan City to Juarez, Mexico, at the end of the year, but a local economic development group is hoping to change its mind.
The plant, which opened in Michigan City in 1985, has about 100 employees.
Company spokesman Jim Burke said the closing is part of a company-wide consolidation of its wiper blade manufacturing business.
“There is no need for the Michigan City facility. We will be able to meet production needs at our other wiper facilities,” Burke said.
Burke said the Juarez facility is much larger than the one in Michigan City and has about 450 employees.
Bob Schaefer, a board member of Michigan City’s Economic Development Corp., said Federal-Mogul once had a couple hundred people at its local plant, which was previously owned by Anco.
Burke said the Southfield, Mich.-based company will look at the skills sets and interests of its Michigan City employees to determine if there are other positions within the company for which they would qualify. Those who don’t qualify for other positions will be offered a transitional benefits package, he said. He said he doesn’t yet know what the package will include.
But Schaefer is hoping the packages won’t be necessary. He said both the mayor’s office and the Economic Development Corp. have called Federal-Mogul corporate officials asking to sit down together to see what they could do to keep the plant in Michigan City,
“We haven’t heard from anyone, but you never know what could happen a few months from now,” Schaefer said.
He pointed out they put together an incentive package that helped keep steel cable manufacturer Sanlo Inc. and its workforce in town in 2009 when the company said it would leave.
“Retaining existing businesses is our No. 1 priority,” Schaefer said.
He said if Federal-Mogul decides to leave for Mexico anyway, the Economic Development Corp. will work with the Center for Workforce Innovations to help find jobs for the displaced workers and will place the company’s building on its website under available real estate.
Burke said the company is also making consolidations in its friction manufacturing business. It is closing its Westchester, Va., facility, which makes brakes, and consolidating the operation with its facility in Glasgow, Ky., he said.
Federal-Mogul is a $6.9 million company with 45,000 employees in more than 30 countries, according to its website.