HOULTON, Maine — One of the largest employers in Houlton is making a major cut in its workforce.
Officials at Smith & Wesson have announced that they will phase out 37 jobs at the Houlton plant, where the company is shifting its focus from all-metal gun parts to polymer-frame handguns.
Liz Sharp, spokeswoman for the company, said Tuesday that 20 of the jobs are currently held by temporary employees.
The Massachusetts-based gun manufacturer also will move several other manufacturing processes to Springfield, Mass., between now and August of next year, Sharp said. She would not provide any details about those changes.
The 161-year-old firearms manufacturer makes a variety of guns in Houlton, including Walther PPKs and handguns chambered in 9 mm, .40 and .45 ACP. The firm also has been making restraints in Houlton for 34 years, according to company records. Smith & Wesson produces more than 44 different types of restraints, including handcuffs, restraint chains and leg irons used by law enforcement agencies, security divisions and military organizations around the world.
When it opened its doors in 1966 in Houlton, it had 18 employees. It has since grown to employ approximately 150 people. When production at the facility increased in 1994, the plant was doubled in size to 36,000 square feet.
Scott Allen, the current operations manager at the Houlton plant, said Tuesday that he could not discuss the layoffs and referred questions to officials at the Springfield headquarters.
Houlton Town Manager Gene Conlogue said Tuesday that he met with company officials last week but declined to say what they discussed.
State Rep. Joyce Fitzpatrick, R-Houlton, said that she felt deep sympathy for the workers and their families, especially with the holiday season approaching.
“I will remain in touch with the Maine Department of Labor to ensure that my constituents who are affected by this terrible news have all the resources available to them to get through this difficult time and to find new opportunities,” she said.
Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton agreed.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families in the County who will be affected,” he said. “My office will be doing all that it can to help those who were laid off.”
In 2008, the company became the first business certified under the state’s Pine Tree Zone initiative. The initiative was spearheaded by Gov. John Baldacci to spark economic development in designated areas of the state where unemployment is relatively high and wages sluggish. The designation made the company eligible for several tax-based incentives such as employee tax reimbursements and Maine corporate income tax refunds.
Sharp said that the company will be offering training opportunities and other assistance to affected workers.
For any assistance laid-off workers need or questions about state government programs available to them, lawmakers encourage affected people to contact their State House office at 287-1440.