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Saco Defense Contractor to Cut One-Third of Workforce
04/11/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

More than 100 workers are being laid off at the General Dynamics plant in Saco. That's about one-third of the workforce at the facility, which makes heavy machine guns and automatic grenade launchers for the U.S. military. Company officials say the Pentagon's reduced demand for the weapons led to the cutbacks. Tom Porter has more.

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Saco Defense Contractor to Cut One-Third of Workfo Listen
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Company spokesman Karl Johnson says the cutbacks come amid decreased demand for weapons from the Pentagon, as U.S. forces draw down their numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We regret the impact this layoff will have on our Saco workforce," Johnson says. "However we must take this action now as the best means to protect the remainder of our workforce, and to maintain our cost competitiveness on existing programs and future opportunities."

The company says the workers - including both salaried and hourly employees - will be laid off between June 14 and July 1. When the cuts are complete, Johnson says about 215 workers will remain at the plant, working on different projects.

"Our workload continues with the production of gun systems for aircraft, as well as conversion kits for some of the older heavy machine guns that the U.S. Army uses," he says.

"It is a very, very great loss for the city," says Saco City Administrator Richard Michaud. Michaud says the types of jobs being lost at General Dynamics are the ideal jobs that any community likes to have.

"These primary manufacturing jobs have multipliers hooked to their wage rates, and they have affects in the community way beyond the direct peril of the position," Michaud says.

The layoffs in Saco come on top of 370 job losses in neighboring Biddeford following the closure of the Hostess Brands bakery there in November.

Despite such bad news, Michaud says there are signs that the region's wider economy is picking up.

"I use the housing sector as an indicator of what's going on, and the code office - you know, the inspection office - issued permits for nearly a million dollars of improvements in the first week of April," Michaud says. "That's a very large number for us, by the way."

And this upbeat assesment is supported by a Forbes magazine survey last month, which that found that greater Portland - which includes the Biddeford-Saco area - was number six in the country for its employment outlook this spring.



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