Small companies in Franklin County are feeling the impact of declining sales of heavy construction equipment.
Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg, Grove Crane in Shady Grove and JLG Industries in McConnellsburg — have been feeling the pinch of a slow construction industry.
Layoffs are underway or on the horizon. Together the three original equipment manufacturers employ more than a quarter of the manufacturing workforce in the Franklin County area. A variety of small shops make the parts for the large employers. Some companies relocated to the county to be nearer their main customer.
“The overall impact is hard to assess,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “We have not been contacted by anyone indicating they are in dire straits as a result of downsizing.”
Some companies in the supply chain get 65 percent of their work from a single OEM, according to Ross. Some may see just 15 percent.
One woman who had worked for a small company making parts for the big three told Public Opinion that she and about half the company’s workforce were laid off indefinitely. Seven employees lost their jobs earlier this month.
She asked to remain anonymous for fear that her former employer would her comments against her should employees be called back to work.
“Other people are taking partial unemployment with one week on and one week off,” she said. “Some are trying to ride it out. Normally they don’t start laying off until November or December.”Partial unemployment was not an option for her, she said. She would have had to pay child care during the week she was not working to hold a spot for her child.
“If business picks up they said they’d prefer to have me back,” she said. “Unfortunately that doesn’t pay the bills.”
She quickly found a job with another local company, but it pays less than she was making.Her former employer is trying to find more customers, she said.Small shops can strengthen their position in economic downturns by relying on relationships with companies in a broader region, according to Ross.
A multi-year federal transportation bill would help create stability for the construction industry, Ross said. Contractors knowing the amount of roads and bridges being built could upgrade their equipment fleets.