LIMESTONE, Maine — As many as 140 people will be laid off at Maine Military Authority by October, according to Peter Rogers, communications director for the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.
“It was certainly a rough day. It’s the type of news you hate to deliver,” Rogers said Friday evening.
The majority of cuts will affect employees in Limestone, he said. They may also affect jobs in the Augusta office.
Rogers said the drawdown of troops and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is to blame for the loss of jobs.
“MMA has in the past really made a name for itself for refurbishing Humvees,” he said. “With the drawdown of troops and equipment, the need for refurbishing has decreased and the money has dried up.”
The announcement was made to the employees on Friday afternoon. The company currently employs 210 people.
“This is a huge cut,” said Bob Jandreau, operations manager for Maine Military Authority. “It’s pretty devastating.”
Maine Military Authority repairs and rebuilds military vehicles for the National Guard. It was founded in 1997.
The Maine Department of Labor’s Rapid Response team will be working with those laid off, said Rogers.
“Once we know how many folks and which folks will be laid off, we’ll get them set up with a rapid response session,” he said. “They’ll receive guidance for applying for unemployment benefits, opportunities at career centers and other programs.”
The focus of Maine Military Authority may also change slightly in order to get more work at the company.
“We’re pursuing every opportunity to find work,” Rogers said. “MMA has already refurbished transit buses and they’re trying to increase work on that. We’re also looking into refurbishing fire trucks, municipal vehicles, school buses, and there’s the potential for refurbishing international military equipment.”
Rogers said the reputation for quality of work made the announcement harder.
“These guys are known nationwide for their quality of workforce. They do it right and do a great job,” he said. “We hope to expand their mission to do more work and get those guys back to work.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has reached out to the staff of New Hampshire’s governor to see if MMA’s services could help save their state money on bus repairs, according to Ed Gilman, Michaud’s communications director.
“I’ve worked closely with MMA for years to support their efforts to diversify their business. This news is just devastating,” Michaud said in a statement. “My office will work closely with the rapid response team to ensure that everyone impacted has what they need to get through this difficult time. I know our delegation is united in continuing to pursue all options so that these workers can get back on the job. I’ve recently highlighted MMA’s outstanding track record and talented workers with the Army and will continue to help in any way possible.”
He has reached out to the Consulate General of Israel in Boston to see if defense department could use MMA’s services, said Gilman.
U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins released a joint statement regarding the layoffs.
“We are disappointed that the efforts to diversify the work at Maine Military Authority since 2010 have not generated enough work to replace the extensive Humvee repair work conducted on behalf of the National Guard during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” they said in the statement. “We will continue to work together to explore any potential opportunities for MMA to fulfill maintenance requirements of the National Guard and the Department of Defense, and we have written the Director of the Army National Guard, General William Ingram, to ask him to work with us in doing so.”
Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton said he would help those laid off.
“This is deeply unfortunate news for the hardworking people of The County, and it’s an example of why we need to put economic growth above all else,” Willette said in a statement. “I will be working closely with the Bureau of Labor to help ensure that those who were laid off have every opportunity to keep providing for their families.”