A Lockheed Martin helicopter plant in Coatesville, Pa., is staying open after President Donald Trump urged its chief executive, Marillyn Hewson, not to close it as planned.
"At the request of President Trump, I took another look at our decision to close the Coatesville, PA facility and have decided to keep it open while we pursue additional work," Hewson wrote in a statement Wednesday.
The president tweeted in approval of the decision, calling Lockheed Martin one of the "truly great companies" in the United States. "We are very proud of Pennsylvania and the people who work there," he added.
Employees at the Coatesville facility manufacture helicopters for Sikorsky, an aircraft manufacturer that is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. It was unclear whether the facility's shutdown had been postponed indefinitely, and spokesmen for Hewson and Lockheed Martin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Lockheed had announced in early June that the facility, which employs more than 450 people, would be closed by the end of the year because of a lack of demand for rotorcraft. It said then that some production would be moved to other sites that do manufacturing for Sikorsky.
On June 14, Trump said in a tweet that he had spoken to Hewson about continuing operations at the plant. "She will be taking it under advisement and will be making a decision soon," he added.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the discussions, and it was unclear what additional work the facility was hoping to find.
Trump also claimed credit for keeping manufacturing jobs in Indianapolis after Carrier, an air-conditioner company, said it would have to move jobs from there to Mexico. He called the chief executive of Carrier's parent company, United Technologies, shortly after winning the 2016 election and struck a deal involving the layoffs of hundreds of the plant's blue-collar workers and millions of dollars in tax breaks. The plant stayed open, but the facility has suffered from absenteeism and low morale.
The president's promises to preserve industrial and manufacturing jobs were key to his election campaign in 2016. Pennsylvania voted for Trump after twice supporting Barack Obama and will once again be an important state during the 2020 election. Eight of the state's counties that Trump carried have lost manufacturing jobs since he took office.
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat whose district includes the plant and who has been fighting to keep the facility open, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the decision announced late Wednesday "is a temporary reprieve and our work is not done."
She added that Lockheed Martin should make "a sustained commitment to this facility, not just a temporary extension driven by a time-bound political calculus."
The company spent weeks reviewing its options, including "what work can be sourced to Coatesville and how we can maintain cost-effective operations," said Callie Ferrari, a Sikorsky spokesman.
"The downturn in the commercial helicopter market puts the Coatesville facility in a tough business situation, which is what drove our original decision," she said.
Major programs at the plant have included Sikorsky's S-92 and S-76D helicopter completion work, as well as Canadian Maritime Helicopter Program modifications and upgrades.
Information for this article was contributed by Jacey Fortin of The New York Times and by staff members of The Associated Press.
Business on 07/12/2019
Print Headline: At Trump urging, Lockheed keeping copter plant open