BREWER, Maine — Employees of Lemforder Corp., the auto parts factory that will close its doors next year, have qualified for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance funds to help them find new jobs or get training for a different career.
It was announced in January that Lemforder, the city’s second-largest taxpayer, would close in mid-2010, eliminating the jobs of the last of its 400 original employees. In mid-August, the local plant employed 115 people.
The U.S. Department of Labor announcement, made Tuesday, is welcome news for displaced workers at the auto-parts plant, said D’arcy Main-Boyington, Brewer’s economic development director.
“It just gives them additional options,” she said Tuesday. “I would expect that there will be a lot of these employees that will want to take advantage of that.”
TAA, established under the Trade Act of 1974, helps workers who have lost their jobs as a result of increased imports or a shift of production outside of the United States. TAA provides trade-affected workers with a variety of re-employment services and benefits to help them find new jobs and get back to work.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins praised the announcement. The shift in production of auto parts to Mexico resulted in the Brewer layoffs, according to the Labor Department.
“Whether it’s auto parts or paper, our domestic industries are facing a number of challenges from increased imports and unfair trade practices,” Michaud said in a statement. “While nothing can replace having a job, this is welcome news at a time when many Mainers are struggling to make ends meet during this recession.”
“The current economic climate, coupled with high unemployment, makes it critical that these displaced workers and their families receive the assistance they need as they work to get back on their feet as quickly as possible,” Snowe and Collins said in a joint press release.
Under the TAA program, displaced workers will be eligible for employment training in another job or career, income support, job search allowance, and relocation services for those who obtain jobs outside of their normal commuting area.
Officials at Lemforder are working with city leaders and the Brewer Economic Development Corp. to find another company to fill the spot it will leave vacant when its doors close.
Along with the 110,000-square-foot main building and 55,000-square-foot warehouse in the East-West Industrial Park, Lemforder officials have said they hope any replacement will make use of the skilled laborers employed at the plant.
The Brewer Lemforder factory opened in 1980 and was the first North American plant built by the parent company, German-based ZF Lemforder, a worldwide supplier of drive-line and chassis components for foreign and domestic automakers. Tie rod ends and ball joints are made at the Brewer plant.