Joslyn Clark to close plant here

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By Chris Sardelli

A Lancaster-based fire protection company is closing its doors.

Joslyn Clark Controls, which manufactures diesel and electric fire pump controllers, has announced plans to leave Lancaster.

According to a press release from the company, it will be consolidating its Lancaster operations and moving them to another facility in the United States. The company will begin moving this fall and could be completely moved by early 2009.

The company operates a 180,000-square-foot facility at 2013 W. Meeting St., where it employs more than 160 people. Its products focus on life safety and fire protection for buildings, which the company distributes throughout the United States.

The press release cites the poor economy as the main reason for consolidating, and said it's needed to help keep Joslyn Clark competitive. The company said it will provide a comprehensive outplacement and transition program, as well as severance pay for affected employees.

Lynda Burke, area director for the S.C. Employment Security Commission, said her office had not yet confirmed the closing, and did not have specifics about how the closing would affect jobs or the unemployment rate in the area. As of September, the unemployment rate was 11.6 percent.

She said whenever a local company goes out of business or consolidates, her office meets with the company's management team and employees to discuss unemployment benefits and job opportunities. Her office will also offer workshops and sponsor job fairs for displaced employees, including one at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster on Nov. 21.

"Our main goal is to get them back to work," Burke said. "We walk (the employees) through everything."

Keith Tunnel, president of the Lancaster County Economic Development Corp., said it is difficult for manufacturing businesses in the United States to compete, especially when the economy is in a downturn.

"I'm disappointed, but I understand in this economy, you'll see consolidations," Tunnel said. "I'm surprised and sad they are leaving. They were a good, strong company for a long time."

Despite the loss of jobs, Tunnel remains optimistic he will find another business to move in to the Joslyn Clark building. He said over 80 percent of the businesses looking to move to the Charlotte area usually request to move into an existing building.

The lack of empty buildings in Lancaster has prevented new businesses from moving into the area, "kind of like a car lot with no cars in the lot," Tunnell said. With this new building, Tunnell will try to bring a new business to the county.

"We'll see if we can get someone back in there pretty quickly," Tunnel said. "Hopefully, we'll land someone in there and create 100 or 120 jobs to replace the ones we're losing."

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416