PITTSFIELD — It was just before noon Wednesday and at least four employees of United Technologies Corp. Fire and Security had gone to Vittles Restaurant on Main Street for lunch.
More UTC employees would be there later, a thought now weighing heavily on restaurant owner Robert Phelan. UTC announced Tuesday it will close next year, resulting in lost jobs for most of the 300 workers, about a quarter of whom live in Pittsfield.
“At about 3 o’clock this morning, I was thinking it’d be about 6 percent of my clientele that I’d lose,” Phelan said Wednesday. “It’s not a deal-breaker, but it will certainly affect my growth.”
The closing announcement came as a shock to employees, town officials and residents, who were still digesting the news and its consequences a day later. The Pittsfield factory specializes in technology products, services and fire security to the global building and aerospace industries, and those operations will be moved to the company’s North Carolina, Mexico and China locations, which do similar work. It’s scheduled to be closed by March 1, 2015.
Up to 100 employees may be able to transfer to the plant in Lincolnton, N.C., company and town officials said Tuesday.
A group of UTC employees, none of whom would give their names, gathered for a cigarette break in the parking lot Wednesday afternoon. One employee said, “Everyone was dealing with it as well as they can.” Others said that they did not see the announcement coming and that the mood of workers was subdued.
The company said it is working with the Pittsfield employees.
The blow to Pittsfield – a town of about 4,000 people, which is no stranger to large factory closings and layoffs – will be felt in several ways, according to Town Manager Kathryn Ruth.
About 75 percent of UTC employees come into the town from neighboring communities and many of them patronize Vittles and other area businesses.
“We have all these out-of-town employees coming in and buying gas and eating lunch and buying items at our stores,” Ruth said Wednesday. “That’s why it’s so important that UTC work with the town so we can market the building and bring another employer in. It’s a huge space. It’s a manufacturing facility that you can make adjustments to.”
In 2008, Texas-based shoe factory SAS Shoemakers closed its Pittsfield plant, costing the community 150 jobs. The following year, the UTC plant, then GE Security and owned by General Electric Co., laid off 110 workers.
“If the decision to close is irrevocable,” Ruth said, “we’re well-versed in working with all regional state and federal organizations to bring in jobs and provide resources and training grants for affected employees.”
Ruth said she hasn’t heard from many employees of the factory in the day following the announcement, but she thinks employees were still trying process the news.
“I think people need to digest the information, because we’re talking less than 24 hours since we found out,” she said.
Ruth expects Pittsfield’s seventh annual job fair, scheduled for May 14 at the Warsaw Middle School, with businesses like T-Mobile and Redington-Fairview General Hospital expected to attend, will be slightly more important than in years past.
Jesse Scardina can be contacted at 861-9239 or at: