PITTSFIELD, Maine — Pittsfield’s second-largest employer is shutting down.
The UTC Fire and Security plant, which produces commercial products such as detectors and fire panels and signaling equipment under the Edwards brand name, is moving its operations to other locations, approximately 300 employees learned on Tuesday.
“In an effort to reduce complexity and improve our ability to serve customers, Edwards plans to close its Pittsfield, Maine, facility and move production to three existing facilities currently producing similar products,” UTC spokeswoman Ashley Berrie said in an email Tuesday afternoon.
Berrie said the three existing facilities that produce similar products are located in Lincolnton, N.C., Mexico and China. She said roughly 100 new jobs will be created in Lincolnton and discussions about those jobs are being held with affected employees in Pittsfield.
The Pittsfield facility will transfer work to the other sites over the course of the coming year with final moves taking place by the second quarter of 2015, Berrie’s email said.
“As we begin the reorganization process, we are committed to working closely with our employees to ensure the transition is handled as best possible,” Berrie said. “Ongoing meetings will outline options including consideration for available positions at other facilities and comprehensive severance benefits.”
Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said Tuesday evening that she was “very much saddened” to learn of the planned shutdown earlier that afternoon.
“We were notified when the employees were being notified,” she said.
According to Pittsfield’s town website, Cianbro is the town’s largest employer with about 360 workers based there. Sebasticook Valley Hospital employs about 278 people in the region, according to the town.
United Technologies Corp.’s 123,500-square-foot factory is a vital regional employer, Ruth said, with about 25 percent of UTC’s employees living in Pittsfield and the remaining three-quarters in surrounding communities. She said the job losses would have a regional effect.
Ruth said UTC informed her that the layoffs would start this fall, occurring in stages until the shutdown is completed March 1, 2015. She said the company told her that UTC’s decision was based on a desire to reduce its overall square footage internationally.
Pittsfield will work with the state and federal government in hopes of securing financial incentives that might change UTC’s mind, but because the company claims its decision wasn’t based on the performance or finances of the plans, those efforts might ultimately prove fruitless.
If UTC’s decision is irreversible, Ruth said the town would work with UTC to market the factory in hopes of bringing in another employer. The town also plans to work with UTC, state and federal agencies to secure job training or college education opportunities for employees who are losing their jobs.
“We will be working with every state, federal and regional opportunity to assist UTC and its employees,” she said.
The Pittsfield factory has been in operation since the 1950s and survived despite changing hands several times.
Ruth said a regional job fair is planned for May 14, with 20 employers, ranging from Cianbro to staffing agencies, signed on to participate.
“I think that will help those that decide to leave early,” Ruth said.
Local UTC officials declined to comment, referring media to company spokespeople.