Jobs vanish as plants close


Although economic news in recent days has been generally good, try convincing workers at some of the state's oldest businesses that brighter days are here.

The Arundel Corp., the Sherwin-Williams Co. and Crown Cork & Seal Co. Inc. all disclosed plans this week to close Maryland operations within the next year, eliminating 186 jobs throughout the state.

Economists said yesterday's news -- that the state's unemployment rate remained much-improved compared with a year earlier -- combined the bittersweet reality that well-established companies have continued to cut while new, smaller and lesser-known companies continued to hire.

"A lot of our old names are moving or shrinking themselves in ways that are bad for the state's economy," said Michael A. Conte, director of the regional economic studies program at the University of Baltimore.

But at the same time, other companies are creating jobs. There's been a boom in employment in small printing shops, for example, he said. And that kind of growth has meant that after a decade of losses, employment in manufacturing has finally stabilized. "That's nothing short of startling. . . . It is fabulous," he said.

Indeed, a nationwide survey of layoff announcements in the month of October, released Wednesday, said that, though tens of thousands of Americans are still losing their jobs to cost-cutting and restructurings, the level is dropping.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement agency, said companies announced the elimination of 42,364 jobs last month, a 37-percent drop from the number cut at the same time last year. So far this year, 460,063 job cuts have been announced, down 11 percent from 1993's record pace.

Challenger said Maryland companies announced the elimination of 600 jobs in October, bringing the state's 1994 layoff total to 4,070.

But those numbers will continue to grow this year, as local companies revealed more layoff plans yesterday.

In Baltimore, the Arundel Corp. said it would close its cement plant at 913 S. Wolfe St. by the end of the year, laying off 69 " workers.

"We have continued to lose money over the last few years" at the plant, which was built in the early 1930s, explained Steve Robertson, general manager of the Baltimore City plant.

"And we don't see an improvement in the future."

John Singleton, attorney for the Union of Operating Engineers Local 37, which represents about a dozen workers at the plant, said he was shocked by the announcement, but that it may be part of a slow pullout from Maryland by Arundel. The company also has said it will close its Greenspring quarry by the end of this decade, he said.

The Sherwin-Williams Co. said it would close its Hunt Valley distribution center next November, ending 90 jobs in Maryland.

Michael P. McConnell, vice president of operations for the transportation services division, said, though, that many of the Hunt Valley workers would be offered jobs at a replacement facility under construction in Fredericksburg, Pa., about 40 miles northeast of York, Pa.

The 327,000-square-foot warehouse, at 300 Clubhouse Lane, shipped 350 million pounds of paint a year.

Mr. McConnell said the company also will close a York, Pa., facility, when the 750,000 square-foot Fredericksburg warehouse opens.

He said the choice to move from Hunt Valley was not a result of incentives from Fredericksburg. "I don't fault the state of Maryland at all," he said. More centralized product distribution was the "driving factor," added Mr. McConnell.

And Crown Cork & Seal said it would close its tin can plant in Hurlock, laying off about 27 workers by the end of the year. The 1902 plant was inherited by Crown when it bought the Continental Can Co. in 1990. The work, and as many as 11 of the Hurlock plant's staff of 38, would be transferred to Crown's Salisbury plant, said Alan Rutherford, Crown's senior vice president.

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