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BAE Systems armaments facility in Fayette to close

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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.

The military's M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M109 self-propelled howitzers — visible through the chain-link fence along Route 119 in Lemont Furnace, across from Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus — soon will be gone.

BAE Systems announced on Thursday that the plant, part of the Bradley Industrial Base for nearly 20 years, will close by Dec. 31, because of the “planned completion of existing contracts managed at the Fayette site and no prospects of future work at the facility,” according to the company's press release.

Stephanie Bissell Serkhoshian, spokesperson for BAE systems, said the closing will mean the loss of 78 full-time and 35 contract jobs at the BAE Systems Land & Armaments Fayette facility.

“The plant closure in no way reflects upon the work and dedication of the employees,” according to the release.

“The downturn in defense spending has had a severe impact on the manufacturing base throughout the country, including the Bradley Industrial Base,” wrote Serkhoshian in an email. “This facility is a part of the Bradley Industrial Base, which is at significant risk of experiencing even further cuts and impacts to jobs and communities across the country.

“This is an unfortunate business decision we've had to make and are doing everything we can to prevent this from continuing to happen across the Bradley Industrial Base.”

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, in whose district the plant is located, reacted on Thursday.

“The closing of the BAE Systems facility in Uniontown is yet another example of President Obama's sequester damaging the livelihood of Southwestern Pennsylvanians,” Shuster said through his staff. “The employees of BAE Systems were truly patriots, working to ensure that our war fighters are provided with the highest quality equipment. I encourage all of those affected by this closing to contact my office for any assistance we can provide in moving forward.”

Two employees at the plant were willing to voice their opinions.

Sharon Kosisko, 42, of Connellsville, an administrative assistant, has worked at the plant for nine years. She will not relocate to another BAE facility.

“I will not go that path,” she said Thursday afternoon, adding that she will have to find another job locally. “Personally I'm very sad. I've made a lot of good friends. We're like a small family. Everybody knows everyone.”

Does she blame the closing on problems with the Obama administration?

“Well, I believe our customer is the Army,” Kosisko noted. “I have two daughters in the National Guard. These are innocents. They go out and get banged up. That's my personal opinion.”

Another worker, Marilyn Tacconi, 59, of Scottdale, a support specialist, has worked at the plant for 15 years. She said she probably would not take a transfer.

“We knew it was coming, but the announcement is a reality check,” she said, holding back tears. “It's been a good 15 years, but it's sad. It's emotional, a tough day for us here. I've made a lot of friends.”

Any feeling about the political situation? “Not that I'd like to voice,” she said.

Attempts to contact other local, county and federal representatives were not successful.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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