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BAE to close Fayette County plant by year's end; 113 workers affected

Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
BAE Systems announced Thursday the planned closing of its Fayette facility in Lemont Furnace. This facility, which has been an important part of the Bradley Industrial Base for nearly 20 years, will be officially shut down by the end of 2013. The BAE Systems Fayette facility’s primary focus has been to overhaul and upgrade various types of military equipment for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and foreign governments, primarily the Bradley Family of Fighting Vehicles and M109 self-propelled howitzers.

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By Timothy Puko
Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 1:03 p.m.
 

Defense contractor BAE Systems announced Thursday that it will close its Fayette County plant by year's end, eliminating more than 100 jobs as cutbacks in military spending continue to hurt its business.

The company cut the North Union plant's staff by half about three years ago because of declining Defense spending. Its contracts end in November, and it doesn't have prospects for any more, the company said in a news release.

“The current business environment has made this difficult announcement necessary,” Erwin Bieber, president of the company's land and armaments sector, said in a statement.

The plant, which primarily rebuilds Bradley Fighting Vehicles, has 78 employees and 35 contractors. Some of the employees could find jobs at other BAE company sites around the country, spokeswoman Stephanie Bissell Serkhoshian said.

BAE has faced pressure as the military tightens spending and moves to replace the Bradley, the plant's main source of business. Those problems were exacerbated by automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration as well as the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BAE and local lawmakers have tried to lobby Congress to stave off cuts. Congress, pushed by Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, doubled the original spending request for Bradley work to $288 million. That will likely help keep part of BAE's system for Bradleys going through 2015, but it isn't a cure-all, Serkhoshian said.

“It doesn't mean everything's perfect,” she said. “It very likely means there will be cuts across the entire business, especially in York.”

BAE, Europe's biggest weapons-maker, acquired the Fayette County plant in 2005 when it bought United Defense Industries for $4.2 billion. The site originally made tractor-trailers and tankers before it was converted into a weapon factory in 1993. Its primary work is repairing Bradley vehicles, but it makes self-propelled howitzer guns, Serkhoshian said

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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