Starrett cutting workforce

By John Peters - jpeters@mtairynews.com

The L.S. Starrett Company is cutting about 30 jobs from its local workforce, a continuation of downsizing efforts begun roughly two years ago.

In a Jan. 15 letter to its local employee force, a copy of which was recently obtained by The Mount Airy News, the company said it simply could not maintain local operations at their present level.

“We have made the decision that we cannot sustain current operations in 320,000 square fee and will close the Mount Airy facility,” the letter stated.

However, not all local operations will cease.

The company said it hopes to “put the building and property up for sale and move to a smaller, leased facility in the Mount Airy vicinity.”

Starrett makes precision measuring tools for the U.S. and international markets, with production facilities in Mount Airy, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Minnesota, Scotland, Brazil, and China. It has been operating in Mount Airy since 1985.

Two years ago, the firm announced a workforce reduction when it closed the saw division of the Mount Airy facility. At that time, the firm had about 150 individuals working at the Mount Airy location, according to Douglas Starrett, company president and CEO.

Tuesday, he said that workforce now stands between 70 and 80, with around 30 jobs yet to be eliminated.

The company plans to keep the carbide bandsaw production, planning, purchasing, quality control and research and development open in Mount Airy, along with the carbide, bi-metal, and carbon bandsaw welding services; and all saw and hand tool technical and application support.

“Any decision like this is a difficult one to make,” Starrett said. “We’ve had a good experience in Mount Airy…we’ve got a lot of great employees who have contributed a lot to the company’s success.”

He said the company had no specific job placement assistance plan in place for those who will be losing the positions, other than ensuring they have advance notice of the job cuts. He said some have already found work with other firms.

“We’re helping them,” said Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership. “We’ve got a lot of our local industry who would like to have some of these people, but they need to stay on and work as long as they can (at Starrett). We’re kind of waiting on them, lining up some companies that might have some interest.”

His agency also is working with Starrett officials to find a facility that suits their needs.

“The best situation would be to find someone who would purchase their building, then allow them to lease the space they would need back,” he said. The firm only needs about 60,000 to 75,000 square feet of manufacturing space, he said.

“The other option is to move out and find additional space. That’s the challenging part, trying to find space that will work with their needs and fit what they’ll need.”

There was no definitive timetable for the move. In the Jan. 15 letter to employees, the company said the expected completion deadline for the move and associated job cuts would be June 30. However, on Tuesday, Starrett said “we have just begun the search,” and that the company would like to have the process completed by the end of the calendar year.

Firm looks for smaller facility

By John Peters

jpeters@mtairynews.com