NEWS

Methode Electronics dropping jobs in Carthage

Chuck Gysi

One of Hancock County's largest employers, Methode Electronics Inc., announced Thursday it was restructuring its operations, resulting in the loss of jobs at its Carthage plant.

The firm announced in Chicago that it was restructuring its United States-based automotive operations not only in western Illinois, but also in Golden and Rolling Meadows.

State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said company officials alerted him to the announcement Thursday morning.

"This is a blow to the gut," Sullivan said Thursday afternoon.

Sullivan said he contacted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-District 17, as well as Jack Lavin, director of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Blanche Shoup, director of the Workforce Investment Office of Western Illinois.

Sullivan said a meeting would be set up perhaps yet this week to address the jobs loss at Carthage.

"That's important to try and coordinate," Sullivan said of the effort to gather all the necessary agencies to deal with the loss of jobs. "We're trying to soften that blow."

The state senator said the manager of the Carthage plant told him earlier in the day that jobs would go first at the Rolling Meadows plant, with layoffs here not expected to come until late spring.

Overall, the company said it would eliminate 700 jobs at the Illinois facilities. Joey Iske, director of investor relations at Methode, said that the layoffs amount to 550 jobs between Carthage and Golden, while 200 jobs will remain in Cathage.

The manufacturer announced that it would shift the remainder of its automotive-related production offshore. At the end, a limited number of production and support staff will remain at Rolling Meadows as well as the 200 jobs in Carthage.

The firm manufactures connectors, components and subsystems, and at its peak the three plants made nearly 60 percent of Methode's sales. The company said in its announcement that it was forced to move production overseas to remain competitive in the automotive market.

The firm's restructuring is expected to be complete by the end of 2008, however, the manufacturing of legacy electronic connectors should be finished at Rolling Meadow within the next three to four months.

"The decision to initiate this restructuring was made with great difficulty as we are cognizant of the number of Methode employees being affected by this action," Donald Duda, president and chief executive officer of Methode Electronics, said in a prepared statement. "Our operations have made massive efforts to control costs. Despite these efforts, U.S. economic conditions, coupled with volume reductions from Methode's legacy automotive customers, have become too great an obstacle to overcome."

Methode's foreign plants are in Mexico, Malta, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Czech Republic, Singapore and China.

Sullivan noted the firm's longtime presence in Hancock County.

“They've been a fixture in that community," he said. "Methode has been a great asset to that community."

Contact Chuck Gysi at chuck@MacombJournal.com.