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Anger, surprise at Labinal plant closing in Salisbury

650 will be out of jobs when plant shuts down next year

State and local officials are expressing surprise and anger at Labinal Power Systems’ decision to shutter its Salisbury plant by the end of next year, leaving its 650 employees out of work.

According to a company statement, the plant’s operations will be moved to Denton, Texas, beginning in May. Employees will receive transition packages and job training support.

“In order to maintain our competitive position in the aerospace industry, we must restructure our North America operations and consolidate our wire manufacturing business into one U.S. facility,” said Jorge Ortega, vice president of Labinal Power Systems North America.

Labinal, an electric wiring systems manufacturer, is among the top five employers in Wicomico County, according to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, along with Wal-mart and Perdue Farms.

On Thursday, Sen. Barbara Mikulski wrote to the president and CEO of Safran North America, part of Labinal’s parent company, expressing her shock and dismay at the closure and urging a change of heart.

“Your decision to close the Salisbury plant will cause great economic and emotional strain to the skilled workforce and the community,” Mikulski wrote.

The senator noted that while she was chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she secured nearly $1 billion in federal funding to purchase Chinook helicopters that Labinal employees would have helped construct.

Salisbury Mayor James Ireton Jr. joined Mikulski’s plea with a letter of his own, in which he said the announcement left him “saddened and frustrated” and came as “a complete surprise.”

“I know that Senator Mikulski has rallied for Safran in order to secure federal funds for your company’s benefit, and Salisbury and Wicomico County’s commitment to this plant throughout its history is unparalleled,” Ireton wrote. “As mayor of a small city, I work endlessly to draw business, retail and manufacturing, to our area. Without manufacturing plants such as yours, a town cannot employ its skilled laborers.”

Labinal came to Salisbury in 2010 after acquiring Harvard Custom Manufacturing, transitioning about 800 employees to the newly created Labinal Power Systems Salisbury, Inc., according to a company press release at the time.