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By BOB WHITE
ELIZABETHTOWN – Hardin County’s second-largest private employer, automobile glass company AGC Automotive Americas, announced Wednesday that more than 100 employees will be cut from its 625-person work force by the end of December.
“We’ve been struggling for quite some time,” said Steve Robbins, AGC's Human Resource manager. “With automotive production reduced in the past year, we’ve experienced a serious impact here.”
The auto-glass maker supplies windshield, rear and side windows, and sunroof glass as original equipment for a broad base of domestic and foreign automakers, as well as aftermarket replacement glass.
Despite a diverse customer base, AGC, like many auto parts suppliers, is forced to reduce costs to remain viable.
Robbins said enhanced severance packages are being offered to some employees and said AGC has enlisted an employment service to help employees find new work. Robbins said average wages for AGC workers hovered in the $17 per hour range.
“We’re in a competitive range with other local manufacturers,” he said.
AGC’s North American facilities include plants in Ohio, Alabama and Mississippi as well as Elizabethtown. AGC’s North American headquarters is in Hebron, Ky. The company also has facilities in Canada and Mexico.
Robbins said there are no plans “at this time” for plant shutdowns.
AGC is the second of Elizabethtown’s three major auto parts suppliers to cut jobs because of economic and automotive slumps.
Carl Lay, general manager of Hardin County’s largest private employer, Akebono Brake Corp., said last week the brake component producer was offering early retirement and severance packages to some of its 950 employees.
Lay said reduction of staff was one way Akebono is attempting to remain competitive in the brake components market. Another strategy Akebono is employing is price reduction, Lay said.
Akebono supplies parts to seven of North America’s top-10 selling autos and after-market friction material and brake calipers for a variety of vehicles.
An Akebono plant in Springfield shut down three months ago.
Dana Corp.’s Elizabethtown steel frame factory, where 600 workers build F-150 pickup frames for Ford plants outside Kentucky, slightly bucked the negative automotive trend last week in returning jobs to 20 laid-off workers.
The 20 workers were among hundreds of Elizabethtown workers Dana Corp. has laid off in recent years. It was once Hardin County’s largest employer with more than 1,000 workers.
There might be light at the end of Dana Corp.’s tunnel, according to company execs.
Elizabethtown plant manager Harland Sarbacker said the Elizabethtown plant will provide the same frame used in the F-150 to Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, once a $200 million retooling of the super-duty truck facility in completed this spring.
Once modifications are final, the plant will produce the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
In addition to the once top-selling Explorer it now produces, $100 million is being spent to retool Ford’s Louisville Truck plant on Fern Valley Road for production of a fuel-efficient car slated to roll off the line by 2011.
Rick Games, president of Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation, said all employers are in rough economic straits because of problem on top of problem.
“It’s not just automotive,” Games said. “This country seems to live and die on the housing and automotive markets and they’re both in the toilet.”
Soaring crude prices coupled with the housing crash and automotive industry’s downward spiral, and constant news about it, have caused an ongoing fear among consumers.
“Even people with money aren’t spending it,” Games said.
Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.