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Posted November 26, 2008 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Union workers were notified of layoffs earlier this month

Thumbnail image for IAC_1_11_24_08.jpg
An employee at International Automotive Components walks out to the parking lot during a shift change Monday afternoon in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

By James Heffernan -- Daily Staff Writer

STRASBURG -- More than 200 workers at International Automotive Components' local manufacturing facility will lose their jobs next month as the industry downsizes to meet slumping demand for automobiles.

IAC corporate spokesman David Ladd said Tuesday the layoffs, which are permanent, are the result of the "ongoing and dramatic" drop-off in vehicle production in North America and the recent freezing of the credit markets, which has led to sputtering sales.

"We have to follow our customers' actions, namely the Big Three [U.S. automakers in Detroit]" Ladd said. "As they continue to reduce volume, we have to consolidate product lines."

The Strasburg facility, which makes coverstock for assembly at other automotive plants, is one of IAC's largest. Some of the plants it supplies are slated for closure.

General Motors will shutter its plants in Moraine, Ohio, and Janesville, Wisc., on Dec. 23, and Chrysler's assembly plant in Newark, Del., will close Dec. 19, according to a notice posted on the local United Auto Workers chapter's Web site.

In addition, GM will reduce operations at its Wilmington, Del., plant to one shift beginning Dec. 8, the notice states. IAC in Strasburg supplies the plant with door and instrument panels for the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.

Ladd said that following IAC's job cuts in December the local work force will total around 360 -- about a third of what it was just a few years ago. Both hourly and salaried workers will be affected.

Union employees were given advance notice of the layoffs earlier this month under the federal WARN Act.

It marks the second round of layoffs at the Strasburg site this year. The company furloughed 250 people between April and July, but many of them were rehired as three North American automotive suppliers that had filed for bankruptcy protection shifted production to Strasburg.

"They have demonstrated to the industry that they can take on a new platform and do it with a short turnaround," Shenandoah County Economic Development Director Susie Hill said of the local plant.

Hill added that in her discussions with state economic development officials, the Strasburg facility is looked upon favorably.

"They have a quality work force, and they produce a quality product," she said. "[State officials] don't think that plant is ever going to close."

But for 200-plus employees, the impending loss of income couldn't come at a worse time.

"For the workers and their families, it's tough to lose your job any time, but especially during the holiday season," said Strasburg Mayor Tim Taylor.

"We're hoping and praying that the economy will turn around, and we can get these folks back to work," he said.

The Virginia Employment Commission office in Winchester is encouraging workers who will be displaced next month to register now for employment opportunities by logging on to www.vawc.virginia.gov, manager Gene Schultz said.

Strasburg's coffers are already down $184,000 this year from Lear Corp.'s transfer of equipment to IAC, which spun off in late 2006, Town Manager Kevin Fauber said. The assessed value of the machinery and tools was substantially reduced in the acquisition.

Shenandoah County's loss of tax revenue from the depreciation stands to be much higher, Fauber said.

Congress has reached a stalemate over whether to approve a $25 billion emergency loan package aimed at keeping the Big Three U.S. automakers afloat. Lawmakers are scheduled to pick up the debate again next week.

* Contact James Heffernan at jheffernan@nvdaily.com

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