Darrell Smith, Connersville News-Examiner Reporter

As the automotive industry goes, so goes automotive suppliers - and Stant Manufacturing is no different with additional layoffs announced late last week.

On Tuesday, United Auto Workers Local 1904 president Bill Johnson confirmed rumors that layoffs were announced on Friday that would affect 26 jobs locally, leaving 10-15 production employees in Connersville.

Stant announced in January that 15 employees were laid off. Johnson said when he began employment with the company in 1966, 787 people were employed.

A press release from Stant corroborated that layoffs had occurred but the plant was not closing nor was the company in the process of closing the Connersville facility.

"Specifically, we have looked at the possibility of relocating the valve manufacturing work to our Pine Bluff [Ark.] operation and moving manual component assembly operations to Tijuana [Mexico]," Stant president Marlon Bailey said in a press release. "The carbon canister and thermals production will remain at Connersville."

In addition, all other activities at Connersville will remain unaffected, including the division headquarters, technology center, machine development, customer service, purchasing, information technology and other operations.

Stant was founded in Connersville in 1898 by George Stant. Major customers include Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, Nissan and Hyundai and other auto manufacturers on a lesser scale. The company has plants in China and the Czech Republic and in the United States in Arkansas in addition to Connersville.

Stant Corporation designs and manufactures fuel system and vapor emission control products for automotive and industrial applications, including fuel caps and capless systems, radiator and oil filler caps, vapor control valves and carbon canisters. In addition, Stant Corporation manufactures a broad line of cooling system components, including thermostats and related products, through its subsidiary Standard-Thomson Corporation.

Last year, Tomkins Group of England sold the company to H.I.G. Capital, a U.S.-based equity group.

Johnson said he met with Mayor Leonard Urban and the Economic Development Group early Tuesday, but there is nothing that will save the jobs.

"What the company is saying, 'We can't get there from here,'" Johnson said. "There's nothing we will be able to do to stop them from taking our jobs out of here."

He said what has happened locally has happened with automotive suppliers particularly as the Big Three - Chrysler, Ford and General Motors - suffer. Chrysler's troubles in particular weigh on Stant, as about 75 percent of the product from the Connersville plant goes to Chrysler.

Johnson said the moving date would be some time in May, but that could be extended to a later date.

People included in the layoffs who were of age could retire because there is still a labor contract, he said. That labor contract expires at the end of March, and negotiations are set to begin March 9.

"It's sad because people have been there all their lives," Johnson said. "I've been there 43 years, worked there all my life. Not only is Stant a worksite for all of us, it's a historical site for Connersville."

Johnson is hopeful the automotive industry will turn around and Connersville will get some jobs back.

"I hate it for the people there - the office people and the union people," he said. "It's sad but there's not a whole lot we can do about it at this point. Stant has been like a big family for years and when you lose some of them, it's like losing some of the family. We're just about to the bottom of the barrel and the only way out is to climb out slowly and surely."
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