Gentex to lay off 350 to 400 employees
ZEELAND — Gentex Corp. announced this morning that it is "right-sizing" its workforce through the "permanent" layoff today of 350 to 400 hourly and salaried employees.
The Zeeland-based manufacturer of automotive rearview mirrors said it had previously responded to the worldwide slowdown in automotive manufacturing by eliminating its entire contracted workforce and by eliminating a third shift, plus voluntary layoffs and shutdowns over the recent Thanksgiving week. The company said there will also be extended shutdowns over the Christmas and New Year holidays to match planned shutdowns in the auto industry.
Gentex Senior Vice President Enoch Jen said the latest forecast from auto industry analysts at CSM Worldwide in Detroit indicates production falling further in Europe, Japan and Korea. Jen said Gentex now expects its revenues in the fourth quarter of 2008 will be 25 percent below those of the same quarter last year.
Jen also said the prior moves by Gentex to cut labor costs were not enough, "as automotive production schedules have continued to decline and are now forecasted to continue on this downward slope through most of calendar year 2009."
"We are saddened that we've had to resort to layoffs, but the three major automotive markets in the world are all now in a recession. We have responded during the year, trying to react rapidly to match our customers' production plans, but it has reached the point where we have no choice and have to do more. The majority of the hourly and salaried layoffs will impact the Company's overhead expenses. However, some of the changes also include taking steps to streamline and integrate our engineering, research and development functions in an effort to gain higher productivity, which should help to slow down the future rate of increase in our operating expenses."
"As managers of our shareholders' investment in the company, we believe that this is the right decision for Gentex in the near and long term. The company remains in a very strong financial position, as we continue to have no debt and sufficient cash to weather this storm," Jen concluded.
Zeeland City Manager Tim Klunder said Gentex is the city's largest employer and is about 15 percent of its total taxable property value. The company had employed about 2,500 people.