OLD TOWN, Maine — Three Old Town Canoe employees will lose their jobs when their parent company moves its marketing and research and development departments to Old Town, but there will be a net increase in the number of positions once the reorganization is complete, according to a company spokeswoman.
Johnson Outdoors, a Wisconsin-based outdoor recreation company, announced last week that it would close a facility in Bellingham, Wash., that handles research and marketing for the watercraft division. There are 10 people in the Bellingham department.
Company spokeswoman Cynthia Georgeson said Monday that the consolidation will bring all operations of the company’s watercraft division to Old Town. That process started in 2009 when Johnson Outdoors shut down a Washington state kayak plant and moved its production to Maine, creating 48 jobs at the then-new Old Town facility on Gilman Falls Avenue. About 90 employees at the Washington kayak plant were laid off.
“It’s the right thing to do for the long-term health of the businesses,” Georgeson said. “We’re committed to [the] watercraft [division] and doing everything to position ourselves for success in the future.”
Uniting the research and marketing arms of the company with its production in Old Town is designed to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Johnson Outdoors’ watercraft operations.
Seven positions at the Old Town facility are scheduled for elimination, but four of those employees have agreed to take other positions at the Gilman Falls complex, Georgeson said.
“Whenever positions are eliminated at Old Town, it’s a very tough decision to make,” Georgeson said. “Our outlook is to create more jobs for more people in the future.”
Georgeson declined to say how many employees Johnson Outdoors would place in the marketing and research departments when they are relocated to Old Town, but she said the facility would see a net addition of five positions once the reorganization is completed.
Eleven jobs in the United Kingdom also will be eliminated by the end of July when Johnson Outdoors switches to a different distribution model.
“Old Town has a special place in our hearts because it’s the birthplace of the plastic boat market,” Georgeson said. “It’s the bedrock of innovation for our company.”
She said that role would continue with the relocation of the research and development departments to Old Town.
Georgeson said the company expects to save $2 million annually by the end of fiscal year 2014. The restructuring is expected to cost Johnson Outdoors $2 million to $2.5 million during the next year.