April 23, 2013

Dielectric closing plant in Raymond; 57 jobs to be lost

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

RAYMOND — Dielectric Communications, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of radio and television broadcast antennas and a major employer in town for nearly 60 years, is closing.

The corporate parent of Dielectric, Charlotte-based SPX, informed the town of its decision late last week and said it planned to wrap up operations by the end of June. The company has 57 employees at the Raymond plant, which opened in 1954, SPX said.

click image to enlarge

The Dielectric/Radiodetection plant is on Tower Road in Raymond. Dielectric Communications is closing, but Radiodetection will remain open.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Town officials said they’ve had very little contact with SPX beyond a brief letter from the company about the decision to close the plant, which was accompanied by a list of job titles and the number of employees in each job. The letter also said the employees are not unionized.

“The problem is that these are great jobs that are really hard to replace,” said Town Manager Don Willard.

Willard said that when he was hired as town manager 13 years ago, Dielectric was almost certainly the largest employer in town, with about 150 employees at the time. It’s now second to Sabre Yachts, which said it has 137 employees in Raymond, a town of about 6,000.

Dielectric has seen regular staff cutbacks since 2000, Willard said.

An outgoing phone message at Dielectric notes the decision to close the plant and said the company wouldn’t comment further until Thursday.

A spokeswoman for SPX did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday, but she forwarded a statement from the company saying the decision to close Dielectric was due to “extremely difficult global economic conditions in the broadcast marketplace” as well as the parent company’s decision to focus more on its core business, which is manufacturing industrial pumps.

A recent article by Bloomberg said SPX is being pushed by an activist shareholder to get rid of non-core businesses and focus on industrial pumps. Analysts said those steps could make SPX more attractive to a buyer.

Dielectric shares space in its plant on Tower Road with another SPX company, Radiodetection, which makes devices for locating underground power and communications cables. In its statement, SPX said Dielectric employees would receive outplacement services and were encouraged to apply for any open positions at Radiodetection, but the section on jobs on SPX’s website doesn’t show any openings in Raymond.

Willard said the closing will have only a slight impact on Raymond’s taxes. He said the full value of the building is slightly more than $4 million and generates about $78,000 in property taxes. The assessment and tax bill do not separate Dielectric and Radiodetection operations, he noted, and the building’s continued use for some operations shouldn’t decrease its value greatly.

Wayne Holmquist, a Raymond resident who heads the town’s revitalization committee, said he hopes the plant closing doesn’t set back recent positive steps for the town’s retail economy.

He said the town’s main shopping center on Route 302 was recently sold and the new owner is renovating it. He also said a new building for the town's farmers’ market is also under construction.

But, he said, the closing “is going to be a big blow because there aren’t a lot of jobs in Raymond.”

Dielectric’s roots date back to World War II, when the company made transmission cables for early radar systems. After the war, it began making antennas for radio and television stations and moved to Raymond, the hometown of the company founder, Dr. Charles Brown.

One of Dielectric’s antennas was on top of the north tower of the World Trade Center when it was attacked by terrorists in 2001. Dielectric also made the antenna that is currently on top of the Empire State Building in New York.

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