Heavy-equipment giant Caterpillar Inc. is closing its Summerville plant, citing a decline in orders for the 280-worker factory, a sizable blow to the Charleston region’s manufacturing industry.
The company said Monday it has decided to shut its transmission remanufacturing factory off Jedburg Road next year based on “an extensive strategic review” of the business.
“Over the last few years, the company has worked to position the facility to be more competitive,” the Peoria, Ill.-based company said in a written statement. “However, it has concluded that the Summerville facility is not viable as a long-term operation.”
The Dorchester County factory tears down, recycles and rebuilds heavy-duty transmissions and related components for original equipment makers, which then resell the parts to aftermarket buyers.
Caterpillar spokeswoman Barbara Cox said the company began to look at the business after some of the plant’s main customers went with other suppliers.
A smaller division that works on hydraulic components in Summerville also will be closed because “that portion the business alone is not enough to sustain that facility, which is a rather large facility,” Cox said.
The 200,000-square-foot plant is on McQueen Boulevard off Jedburg Road, near U.S. Highway 78.
Caterpillar said it will conduct an “orderly ramp down of production,” ahead of the scheduled mid-2014 closing.
The factory has 255 full-time employees and 25 temporary workers. They were notified of the closing Monday. Full-time staffers will receive severance packages, and the company said it plans to work with agencies that provide employment outplacement services.
“We’re going to do everything we can to support them,” Cox said of the affected workers. “This is our family, and we’ll do everything we can to make this transition as smooth as possible, even though it’s a tough one.”
Several people expressed sympathy Monday on The Post and Courier’s Facebook page for the workers who will lose their jobs.
“What a shame!” Ramona Lynn Grimsley said.
Mac Finch called it a “sign of the times.”
Caterpillar joined the lineup of blue-chip name manufacturers in the Charleston region in 2005, when it bought Summerville-based automotive parts maker Williams Technologies Inc. At that time, the company had about 400 workers in the region
Greg Folley, vice president of Caterpillar’s remanufacturing and components division, said “in no way” does Monday’s “decision reflect upon our employees’ hard work and dedication.”
“They have demonstrated tremendous efforts to produce quality products for our customers,” Folley said in a statement.
The company told local officials about the closing and job cuts Monday.
“The good thing is that the workforce is highly skilled, so I think they’ll have an opportunity for re-employment within the region,” said Jon Baggett, Dorchester County’s economic development director.
Also, Baggett noted that the building will be desirable for businesses that are looking to expand. Demand is growing for the type of “Class A” industrial space that Caterpillar leases in Summerville, he said.
Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.