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GE to shut down Laurel facility

GE Healthcare confirmed Thursday that it will shut down a plant in Laurel that employs nearly 200 people and manufactures incubators and warmers for hospital neonatal intensive care units.

The company will take the next 12 to 24 months to transfer the work in that facility to a site it operates in Wisconsin, said Benjamin Fox, a GE spokesman.

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The move "will help the business stay competitive by combining business operations, leveraging technical expertise and encouraging engineering collaboration," Fox said in an email.

About 180 employees at the facility will be affected by the closing, he said, though some will be relocated to Wisconsin or work remotely from Maryland. A "significant" number of new positions would also be added in Wisconsin, Fox said.

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GE will help employees identify jobs both within and outside the company. The company will also offer those who lose their jobs "income extension" and "other benefits," Fox said.

The loss of the facility disappointed state business officials. Gov. Larry Hogan has made it part of his mission to make Maryland more business-friendly and to boost manufacturing.

Officials had reached out to GE, but were told it was a corporate decision, said Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Commerce.

"It is oftentimes very difficult for us to be able to work something out when a corporate decision is taking precedence over everything," she said.

Despite the loss, Maryland has attracted a number new manufacturing companies to the state in recent months, Glenn Hood said.

RDI Wire & Cable Solutions Inc., a veteran-owned manufacturing company that provides products for the military, aerospace, automotive, and engineering industries, announced plans to hire 50 new employees in Wicomico County, while Norway-based The Nammo Group said it would bring more than 130 new manufacturing jobs to the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Southern Maryland over the next five years. Toroid Corp., which manufactures electrical transformers and other power products plans to hire 50 new people in Wicomico County over three years.

Howard County economic development officials called the loss of jobs unfortunate.

"While it is unfortunate, we are optimistic that the workers displaced by the move will be able to locate employment with another manufacturer inside the county," Lawrence Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said in a statement.

GE Healthcare operates 25 major manufacturing plants as well as a number of smaller facilities, throughout the U.S., including key locations in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Arizona, Utah and Ohio.

"By consolidating business operations and engineering in larger, existing locations in Wisconsin, we will be more customer-centric, more competitive from a cost perspective, and enhance our technical domain expertise and platforming knowledge by collaborating more closely with the rest of the business' engineering organization," Fox said.

He also said it was more beneficial from a supply chain perspective to ship products from one facility, rather than multiple sites.

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