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Snap-on Tools closing Johnson City plant - 150 to lose job; Elizabethton Plant to continue operations

JEFF KEELING • Jan 10, 2007 at 10:12 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Nearly 150 local workers will be without jobs by mid-year as Johnson City's Snap-on Tools plant closes after 32 years producing hand tools, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Speaking from Snap-on headquarters in Kenosha, Wis., Rick Secor said the decision to close the plant resulted from a corporate effort to become more globally competitive.

"Many factors were taken into consideration, and this is a very difficult determination to arrive at," Secor said. "Unfortunately, the investment required to make Johnson City globally competitive would not be feasible."

The Johnson City plant produces screwdrivers that carry the Snap-on brand name. Secor said the company is not considering closure or cutbacks at a Snap-on plant in Elizabethton, which employs about 400 people and also produces Snap-on hand tools. On the other hand, the company is not anticipating increasing its work force as it shifts the production from Johnson City to its other plants, including Elizabethton.

All employees will have jobs and paychecks until at least March 30, Secor said. Between then and the middle of the year, 148 hourly and salaried workers will lose their jobs. Secor said many employees have been working at the plant at 2416 Watauga Road for a number of years.

"Some have been here since the plant opened, which is what makes this such a difficult day," Secor said.

Company representatives met with employees Wednesday afternoon to deliver the news.

Secor said the company is committed to making the transition as smooth and successful as possible, while a Snap-on vice president had positive comments about the affected workers and the Johnson City community.

"This plan is in no way a reflection upon the quality of our employees in the plant or on the support of the community of Johnson City," said Mark Kohler. "We are committed to helping employees transition forward successfully throughout this difficult process."

While the company does not plan to add jobs in Elizabethton, Secor said Johnson City employees would have the opportunity to apply if any positions do open there.

He said that despite the quality of its work force, the Johnson City plant is basically falling victim to global economics. According to a news release, the corporation is trying to build "a globally competitive manufacturing base that leverages and aligns production processes and capabilities."

In short, Secor said, with parts and pieces coming in from here and there, production in Johnson City is not an example of "aligned production processes."

"There are some processes that are done in other plants - in some cases, things are shipped to Johnson City and then shipped to other locations, and the company is looking at getting away from moving components and parts around."

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