L3 KEO closes Brattleboro plant

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BRATTLEBORO — A defense contractor has closed its Brattleboro plant, eliminating 15 jobs and leaving a 24,000-square-foot building vacant in the Exit One Industrial Park.

L3 KEO announced Monday that its facility at 343 John Seitz Drive had shut, effective immediately.

The Northampton, Mass.-based company characterized it as "a difficult but necessary decision in our ongoing effort to streamline business operations and achieve operational efficiencies."

L3 administrators said they're offering "a severance package, extended medical coverage and outplacement assistance" to furloughed employees.

Also offering help is Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., with Executive Director Adam Grinold pointing to potential employment opportunities at other precision manufacturing companies in the area.

"Given the highly sought-after skills of the employees currently employed by L3 KEO, and the need for qualified workforce in the region, we are prepared to assist these employees in identifying new job opportunities and anticipate a quick re-employment of these 15 individuals," Grinold said.

The exact reasons behind L3 KEO's Brattleboro closure were not clear.

A spokeswoman for New York-based parent company L3 Technologies Inc.said she could not comment further, though she did say that "positions at the other L3 KEO facilities will not be impacted by this action."

L3 KEO makes "high-performance optronic sensor, mast and weapon control systems for defense applications," according to the company's announcement. Administrators said there are 547 L3 KEO employees at facilities in Northampton; Pittsburgh, Penn.; and Bologna and Milan, Italy.

L3 KEO was formed in 2012 when L3 Technologies — one of the world's largest defense contractors — purchased Northampton's Kollmorgen Electro-Optical, which had made its name designing submarine periscopes.

At the time, an executive with L3 said the purchase "adds important new capabilities and serves as an example of L3 successfully executing its acquisition strategy."

There have been some employment fluctuations, with press reports showing that L3 KEO laid off a combined 31 staffers in late 2013 and early 2014 due to slowdowns in U.S. Department of Defense business. The furloughs mostly affected the Northampton location.

Grinold said Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., which operates the Exit One Industrial Park, was "very recently" informed of the possibility that L3 KEO could close its local plant. "Losing a long-term employer, even a smaller employer like L3 KEO, is disappointing," Grinold said Monday.

He said BDCC will be in touch with the Vermont Department of Labor and will work to "ensure that all available resources are made available to the employees."

L3 KEO and its predecessor, Kollmorgen, were long-time tenants at the industrial park. BDCC still owns the building that had hosted the company, meaning officials will be searching for a new tenant.

"We'll asses the facility and begin marketing the availability of the space," Grinold said, adding that he believes there will be a demand for the structure.

"We're confident that this could be an opportunity for the region," Grinold said. "Unfortunately, there is still a limited supply of industrial space in Windham County."

Mike Faher writes for VTDigger, the Reformer and The Commons. He can be contacted at mfaher@vtdigger.org.

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