FORT WAYNE – Exelis, which has shed about 800 local jobs in just over three years, on Thursday announced plans to cut more.
A “For Sale” sign will be posted in front of the Exelis building at 1919 W. Cook Road on Monday. Company officials say they are shuffling some local workers but remain committed to keeping a substantial workforce in Fort Wayne for the long haul.
“A small number” of jobs will be lost before the reorganization is completed, said Kristin Jones, spokeswoman for Exelis’s Geospatial Systems division.
The final number and timetable haven’t been decided, she said.
The Geospatial Systems division employs about 470 in Fort Wayne, including contractors. The Night Vision and Communications Solutions division employs about 525 to 550 locally.
In addition, an estimated 200 local Exelis workers are on the “shared services” staff, which performs accounting, information technology, human resources and other services to the entire company, which is headquartered in McLean, Va.
The total – before the expected cuts – is now about 1,200.
That’s a stark contrast to the workforce of more than 2,000 in December 2010.
On Nov. 1, 2011, ITT Corp. split into three separate companies, including ITT Exelis. The company, which now goes by Exelis, employed about 1,700 in Fort Wayne at the time.
Less than three weeks later, Exelis cut more than 200 local jobs, including 95 temporary positions. The company’s local workforce has shrunk steadily since then. Officials have confirmed various job cuts but declined to give total employment numbers until Thursday.
The employer’s fall 2011 job cuts were on top of about 360 at the ITT operation in December 2010.
Tim White, spokesman for the Night Vision and Communications Solutions division, said local employment totals have surged and receded in the shape of a bell curve.
The local workforce in 2002 was about the same size it is now, he said.
“We went up tremendously to support the war effort,” he said. “This isn’t like Wal-Mart or whatever. In any defense industry company, you’re going to see a significant ebb and flow (in employment).”
About the whittled-down operation, White said, “A lot of these (cuts) have been eight, 10, 20 jobs at a time.” The company doesn’t announce job actions of that size, he said.
“If you’re saying that we’re significantly smaller than we were in 2010, that’s right,” White said.
Jones said more than 90 percent of workers now in the Geospatial Systems division will keep their jobs after officials review which tasks might be outsourced.
The Cook Road complex – actually three connected buildings – is owned by Exelis’s Night Vision and Communications Solutions division, which makes Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems, or SINCGARS.
The radios allow frontline troops to coordinate communications into a network rather than routing calls singly up the chain of command. The company has built more than 550,000 SINCGARS.
The defense contractor expanded its local workforce after receiving a multiyear, multibillion-dollar government contract for the radios during the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Company officials have said its workforce was destined to decline as the contract wound down.
Exelis is now pursuing and securing contracts outside the traditional military structure for a wider mix of products, White said.
The vast majority of Night Vision and Communications Solutions Division’s employees are now working in a building at 7310 Innovation Blvd., about half a mile away from the Cook Road complex, which it owns.
Its sister division, Geospatial Systems, leases space in the complex.
The plan, Jones said, is to sell the Cook Road complex in stages, allowing a new owner to occupy two of the three buildings. The geospatial staff would remain in Building 1 through the end of 2016.
“We’ll see what happens after that,” Jones said. “The intent is to remain in Fort Wayne.”