GE plans shutdown of last Fort Wayne facilities

General Electric Corp. is planning to shut down the last of its Fort Wayne facilities after more than a century in the city where it once had thousands of workers.

GE announced Monday it expected to close its motor testing lab and executive center in a year, eliminating nearly 90 jobs as it moves the work to Monterrey, Mexico, The Journal Gazette reported.

Company officials said they'll enter a 60-day bargaining period that will allow unions representing some of the workers to make alternative proposals.

The closing is unlikely to be averted and negotiations will focus on protecting transfer rights and retirement benefits for those workers, said Brent Eastom, president of International Union of Electrical Workers local 901.

"Honestly, the writing's been on the wall for more than 10 years," he said of the closing decision.

The Fairfield, Conn.-based corporation first arrived in Fort Wayne in 1911 when it bought the former Jenney Electric Light Co. GE once had almost 10,000 workers at its Fort Wayne site, where 13 buildings now sit mostly vacant.

The Fort Wayne shutdown follows GE's decision last fall to cut 130 jobs at its Bloomington refrigerator factory, where it also dropped a planned $161 million investment and addition of 200 jobs that had been announced in 2010.

GE said it would have fewer than 20 employees working from their homes in the Fort Wayne area once the offices there were closed.

The company hasn't decided what will happen to the GE facilities, GE spokesman Matt Conkrite said.

"GE is considering options for this location, and will continue to consult with both the mayor's office" and local economic development officials, he said. "There is nothing new to report at this time."

The job cuts include about 30 workers at the motor testing lab and about 60 in its executive center.

"They've seen the work slowing down," Eastom said. "I wouldn't say they were shocked or surprised."

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