BREAKING: GE to close Bloomington plant

The General Electric Co. said today that it will close its massive refrigerator plant in Bloomington by the end of 2009, displacing about 900 employees.

The company said the Bloomington operation lost about $45 million last year, thanks to declining side-by-side refrigerator sales and rising material and labor costs.

“Despite continued investment by the company and hard work by the union leadership and our employees, we can no longer effectively compete,” Kent Suiters, the plant manager, said in a statement.

The union that represents the plant’s 837 hourly employees will have 60 days to offer competitive alternatives to the closure. A final decision on the closing of the 1 million-square-foot plant will be made after those talks, the company said. The plant also employs 59 salaried employees.

The last few years have been rough for GE employees in Indiana. In March 2005, the company laid off 470 workers at the Bloomington refrigerator plant, leaving about 1,000 employees. And in May, the company said it planned to let go of 365 of its 750 employees at an electric motors and transformers plant in Fort Wayne.

As of late this afternoon, GE had not filed notice of the job cuts with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said Jennifer Long, the state’s dislocated worker coordinator. Companies have to warn at least 60 days before workers are let go.

The shutdown would wipe out 1 percent of the total work force in the Bloomington area and 8.7 percent of workers in the area who make durable goods – refrigerators and other products expected to last at least three years.

Bloomington has suffered a string of manufacturing woes in recent years, including the closing of Thomson Consumer Electronics’ television plant.

Still, the city has compensated by adding well-paying jobs in professional and business services, and medical. Cook Group, which is headquartered in Bloomington, has added hundreds of jobs through its steady expansions.

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