Defense contractor General Dynamics Corp. said it would bring jobs to South Carolina after it acquired Summerville-based armored vehicle manufacturer Force Protection in December, but this week General Dynamics is laying off 155 Force Protection workers.
The company said the new jobs are still coming -- General Dynamics Land Systems plans to hire about 45 people for production jobs at Force Protection's Ladson plant next month -- but first a much larger number of white-collar jobs are going away.
Local company spokesman Tommy Pruitt said some employees who are losing their jobs were notified Monday, but it could take until Wednesday to notify all those affected.
Prior to this week's elimination of jobs, Force Protection employed about 750 workers locally and another 600 overseas, producing and servicing several models of armored vehicles. The company was founded 15 years ago, and its success was built upon selling military vehicles that are resistant to land mines and roadside bombs.
Most Charleston-area employees work at the company's 400,000-square-foot manufacturing complex on U.S. Highway 78 in Ladson, located on 260 acres across from the Exchange Park Fairgrounds. The company also has a 60,000-square-foot Summerville campus for research, testing and training, an Edgefield facility for blasting and ballistics testing and locations overseas.
"Following a careful assessment of the operations and ongoing requirements of the business, General Dynamics has determined that it is necessary to reduce the size of our work force at the business formerly known as Force Protection," General Dynamics Land Systems said in a prepared statement.
The company said the positions that are being eliminated are primarily administrative and professional, and those laid off will receive assistance in preparing to look for new jobs.
"Making this change improves the overall strength and competitiveness of the business," the company's statement said. "We will continue to employ an estimated 600 employees in the greater Charleston, South Carolina, area."
General Dynamics acquired Force Protection in a $360 million buyout. The corporation's annual report, published Feb. 17, states the company expects that "growth in international vehicle contracts and revenues from the December 2011 acquisition of Force Protection" will offset reductions in other segments of General Dynamics' military vehicle business.
General Dynamic Land Systems, with about 9,500 worldwide employees, is part of General Dynamics' Combat Systems group, which the report said should have revenues of roughly $8.5 billion in 2012 and an operating margin above 14 percent.
Pruitt said the jobs that Force Protection will be adding locally will be related to a military contract to upgrade Stryker armored vehicles, which are produced by General Dynamics. The company is still evaluating which jobs it will need to fill but anticipates openings in areas such as welding and fabrication.
"The impact of today's announcement certainly could be worse if we didn't have the additional Stryker work coming," Pruitt said. "These are existing vehicles that are coming in for upgrades."
Force Protection's vehicles are described by General Dynamics as "designed specifically for reconnaissance and urban operations and to protect their occupants from land mines, hostile fire and improvised explosive devices."
They include the Buffalo mine clearance vehicle, the Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, and the smaller Ocelot light patrol vehicle. Force Protection sells the vehicles to the U.S. military and to other nations.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.