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Lighting factory in Avilla to close

95 to lose jobs at Federal-Mogul

A Noble County lighting factory’s flame is flickering out.

Federal-Mogul Corp. is closing its Avilla location in October, cutting 95 jobs, company officials said this week in a letter to state officials.

The plant at 100 Progress Way West makes lighting sockets for vehicle taillights.

Federal-Mogul officials cited the decision as a “response to changing market dynamics” and a desire to organize the company’s lighting operations more efficiently.

“It’s certainly no reflection on the skills or loyalty of the employees at the Avilla site,” corporate spokesman Jim Burke said Thursday.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires companies planning mass firings or layoffs to notify state and local officials at least 60 days before the effective date. The WARN letter was dated Tuesday.

Details will be released later, but the job cuts are expected to begin in the July-August-September quarter and end in October, when the factory closes permanently. The workers are not union members. The company might offer limited opportunities to transfer to other locations, Burke said. Everyone else will be offered assistance as they transition to other employers, he said.

Avilla’s population is about 2,400. Noble County’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in December, the most recent data available. By comparison, Indiana’s jobless rate was 6.9 percent.

Federal-Mogul employs about 44,500 workers and operates 93 manufacturing sites worldwide, Burke said.

The Southfield, Mich.-based manufacturer supplies the automotive, aerospace, industrial, heavy-duty vehicle, light commercial vehicle, marine and rail industries.

The company, which plans to report 2013 earnings next week, has endured significant ups and downs since 2000.

Federal-Mogul filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001 after being hit with more than 365,000 asbestos-related lawsuits with claims totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Federal-Mogul in 1998 acquired several companies facing asbestos claims, the Associated Press reported.

The company ultimately established a trust that paid the claims, Burke said. Federal-Mogul emerged from bankruptcy reorganization in December 2007.

Company officials turned their attention to rebounding in 2008. Their plan included a $6 million investment in new equipment for the Avilla plant. The plan included creating 50 new jobs at the operation, which employed more than 120 at the time.

As the auto sales rebounded from the recession, the company’s ambitions went into overdrive. In May 2010, Federal-Mogul’s then-CEO Jose Maria Alapont was quoted by Bloomberg News saying that the company was scouting acquisition deals larger than $100 million.

Since then, the company has been growing by attracting new customers and making strategic acquisitions, Burke said. Federal-Mogul develops products designed to help customers improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and enhance durability.

sslater@jg.net

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