When auto and truck lighting supplier Guide Corp. ceased production Jan. 12 in Anderson, Ind., and Monroe, La., it came as no surprise to those communities.
Both Anderson and Monroe had been in talks with Guide for several years. The only detail was exactly when the end would come.
Back in late 2004, Guide lost a crucial contract as the chief truck lighting supplier to General Motors Corp. At the time, Plastics News estimated that Guide had $350 million in injection molding-related sales.
GM recently began to shift the last of the work to Guide's competitors. More than 2,000 workers in Anderson and Monroe received layoff notices three months ago. Most were let go in December, but the remaining workers were expecting to stay on until May 31. That changed the week of Jan. 8.
GM spokeswoman Deborah Silverman said the company asked Guide to accelerate the switchover, to help GM save money. GM owns the Guide plant.
Anderson and Monroe were Guide's last U.S. plants. The company also had a plant in Mexico, but its status was unclear. Calls to Guide's headquarters in Pendleton, Ind., were not returned.
Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said his city started to put together a more diverse economic base about three years ago.
``GM was the dominate employer during the late 1950s and '60s, but beginning with the oil embargo in the '70s, it began to change the auto industry significantly,'' he said.
At one time, GM employed about 24,000 in the city, Smith said, but Anderson is moving away from automotive. The same skill sets can be used in nonautomotive industries, he noted.
Anderson recently learned that Nestle SA plans to build a $359 million facility there that will open in 2008. The plant will make Nesquik Ready-to-Drink and Coffee-Mate liquid products, and is expected to employ 300. Other growing local employers include Northstar Aerospace Inc. and Altair Nanotechnologies Inc.
Smith said the city will work with GM to find a new tenant for the Guide plant.
``My goal is to redevelop the property,'' Smith said.
The Monroe plant is already on the market and the equipment is due to be auctioned in March, according to Dwight Vines, the city's economic development officer.
He said that at its peak, the plant employed 1,100-1,200. Some workers there have taken jobs at a GM plant in Shreveport, La., while a job fair will be held for others.
Vines said that because Guide was a union shop and provided some of the highest wages in the area, it will be difficult to find comparable-paying jobs.
Guide formed in 1906 as a motor vehicle lamp repair company. It later became known as Delphi Lighting, but was spun off by GM in 1998.