Local Hill-Rom closing to affect 70 workers

Hill-Rom is transferring 70 jobs at its North Charleston property to Indiana and within the local area.

An Indiana-based medical products company is closing its longtime North Charleston location under a plan to realign and consolidate its corporate assets.

Hill-Rom Holdings Inc. notified state employment officials last week that 70 workers will be affected by the projected Sept. 15 shutdown of its Ashley River campus off Leeds Avenue.

Spokesman Larry Bauman said the company decided to close the Corporate Road site to help “simplify the supply chain.” Hill-Rom has been on an acquisition tear over the past three years, leaving it with too much unneeded real estate, he said.

“We have a fair amount of excess capacity,” Bauman said.

Most of the affected local jobs are in a customer call center that is being moved to Hill-Rom’s hometown of Batesville, Ind., he said. Eligible workers are being offered transfers. Bauman said he did not how many will take the offer.

“We’ll now have four call centers there and the consolidation enables us to draw upon a wealth of product and technical expertise among the call center teams based in Batesville,” he told an Indiana media outlet last week.

About 20 to 30 employees who work in engineering, information technology and other specialties will remain in the Charleston region. Some will be assigned to work near Daniel Island at Trumpf Medical Systems, a high-tech surgical lighting designer and manufacturer that Hill-Rom bought for $250 million from its German owners last year. Others will work from a small office that the company plans to lease in the area, Bauman said.

Hill-Rom plans to seek a new user for the nearly 10-acre Ashley River property, he said.

The Hoosier State company set up shop in the Lowcountry in 1985 through the purchase of a Johns Island startup business that had developed a patented air-flow bedding system.

Its local payroll has been shrinking steadily in recent years.

In 2008, Hill-Rom had about 400 workers in North Charleston, where it had been making specialized hospital beds and other “therapy surfaces” for patients with serious burns and other skin ailments. The following year, it shifted some of its manufacturing to Batesville, eliminating 90 local jobs. By 2012, its workforce on Corporate Road was down to about 170 employees.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.