JCI Trimming More Jobs

October 22, 2004
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HOLLAND — The pending loss of several white-collar jobs at Johnson Controls Inc. in Holland the need for diligence in recruiting new employers to the area and helping existing firms grow, the head of the local economic development agency says.

Constant change is the norm for large, multi-national corporations like Johnson Controls, particularly in the automotive supply industry, and rather than bemoan job losses, the area needs to focus on adapting to an ever-changing economy, Lakeshore Advantage CEO Randy Thelen said.

Thelen counts among recent successes Great Lakes Castings Corp., a growing Ludington firm that is planning to open a new production facility in Holland by early next month and will employ 70 people by December.

While the JCI moves hurt, the focus needs to remain on helping companies create new jobs locally at a faster rate than those that are lost as the business cycle ebbs and flows.

"We just need to keep the win column better than the loss column," Thelen said. "I'm hopeful those jobs (at JCI) can be absorbed more quickly than they were a few years ago."

Johnson Controls plans to trim 350 non-manufacturing positions by December at facilities in Holland, Plymouth and Warren.

Bill Dawson, vice president of communications of JCI's Plymouth-based Automotive Group, could not break down how many job losses would occur at each location.

JCI employs between 1,700 and 1,800 people each in non-manufacturing positions in Holland and Plymouth and up to 150 in Warren. The job cuts will occur across a wide spectrum of positions, including engineering, finance, marketing, technical, support and management, Dawson said.

As with the announcement last year that 885 production positions in Holland were going away when the production of automotive sun visors is relocated to Mexico, JCI cites a need to cut costs in a fiercely competitive industry for the upcoming white-collar job cuts.

"We just have to keep our cost structure in a place where we can remain competitive and we've identified some places where we can take out some costs," Dawson said. "We have to focus on staying globally competitive and staying healthy."

Improved technology and processes enable JCI to maintain existing productivity levels with fewer employees, Dawson said.

As JCI was informing employees of the white-collar job cuts, executives told workers in Holland that the company has secured new contracts and was adding 200 production jobs that will partially offset those lost when visor production moves.

Thelen said he was pleased to see JCI begin making good on a commitment to try and find replacement work for the visor production.

Johnson Controls has more than 76,000 people employed in its $17.1 billion Automotive Group at 76 locations worldwide.

The white-collar positions JCI is cutting in Holland are particularly painful because they are high-paying technical jobs that provide a professional talent pool that communities need to lure new business investments, Thelen said.

"It's important for us as a community to retain as much of that talent as possible," he said. "That experience and that talent is what helps to generate new innovations and new products for growth. For us to retain our advantage and our competitive edge, we need to retain that talent." 

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