Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – After nearly 70 years in operation, the GE Circleville Lamp Plant will likely be closing its doors for good next year, but the impact on the employees and the community should be far less severe than previous plant closures, according to local officials.
Deia Campanelli, spokeswoman for GE Lighting, said the company announced Thursday its intent to close the local plant, with operations expected to be phased out by the end of August 2017.
GE reports volume is down dramatically at the Circleville Lamp Plant, which is currently operating 90 percent below capacity.
“It’s extremely disappointing and sad to see a facility with such a long history in Circleville close its doors,” said Ryan Scribner, executive director of Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3). “And not to diminish the impact on the community or the employees, but I think we are in a much better position to be able to absorb some of that impact now than we were a few years ago, for example, when the RCA plant closed.”
The closure of the Circleville Lamp Plant comes on the heels of the groundbreaking for the new Sofidel plant just south of the city that is expected to bring about 300 new jobs by its opening in 2018.
The Rickenbacker Intermodal area also continues to provide new employment opportunities, he said, as well as other local and nearby employers.
“There are a lot of unfilled jobs right now,” Scribner said. “A lot of employers are having challenges getting people on the local and regional level. We are definitely on board to help work with these folks and help align them with those opportunities.”
The GE Circleville Lamp Plant opened in 1948 and at one time employed more than 1,000 people at the local facility. The plant currently employs about 200, even after a corporate investment in 2013 that added about 50 jobs in Circleville to produce energy-efficient soft white bulbs.
Mayor Don McIlroy said he also sees opportunity with this plant closure that just wasn’t there when previous industries shut down their local operations.
“When folks are losing their jobs, to me, that’s really devastating,” McIlroy said. “That’s never easy, and I really sympathize with these people. But it’s going to take about a year, and we have quite a bit of growth going on right now. My role as mayor right now will be to meet with the present managers and make sure we understand their long-term and short-term goals and all of the ramifications of this so we can do what we can to help.”
McIlroy said the GE plant also leaves a very large footprint in Circleville, and now would be the time to look at the facility and explore what its future might hold.
The statement from GE Lighting cited a shift in technology and consumer demand for the proposed closure of the Circleville plant.
“In the last decade, the lighting industry has seen a major technology pivot away from traditional lighting products including incandescent, halogen, and specialty linear fluorescent lamps,” the statement reads. “Consumer demand for traditional lighting is at an all-time low and that shift has been supported by the U.S. Government phasing out incandescent bulbs.”
Campanelli said the proposed closure is subject to an “idea generation period” if requested by employees to offer alternatives to the plan before the final decision is made to proceed with the closure.
Scribner said he is currently uncertain what would be involved in such a plan, but local, state and regional officials stand ready to help the employees explore scenarios that could keep people employed.
“We want to have that discussion, but it’s really at the discretion of the company,” Scribner said.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal