Joy Global officials announced Friday that manufacturing Plant No. 1 in Franklin will be fully closed by July 1.
Caley Clinton, a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee-based mining machinery manufacturer, said the chain plant in Reno will remain open as will the engineering group.
“As it continues to grapple with unprecedented market conditions, weak industry demand and a struggling consumer base, Joy Global today announced it will cease manufacturing operations at its Plant 1 facility in Franklin, Pennsylvania by July 1, 2016 to better adapt its global manufacturing operations to the market,” according to a press release.
The company also said, in the press release, that it will remain committed to the Franklin area with the engineering group that remains a “hub for room and pillar and shearer loader products, as well as related technical services and supply chain.”
A union official said the estimates of total job losses are about 130 to 150 union jobs.
About a half dozen union jobs will remain in the experimental manufacturing department that works with the engineering department, which employs about 200 people.
The company will meet with the bargaining units for the unions to discuss the closure of the plants and what options there will be for affected employees.
“This was a difficult decision to make but one that reflects the market challenges seen across our industry,” said Peter Salditt, president of underground mining for Joy. He attended the meeting Friday afternoon.
“We value the contributions of all of our employees and are working to help them manage this transition,” Salditt said.
Clinton said the company has no plans to bring jobs back to Franklin should the market emerge from the doldrums. She also said company leaders have no idea when the market will rebound.
In addition to the Reno chain plant and engineering, the press release said it would maintain technical services and support staff in Franklin.
One union official said “company officials promise to take care of employees through the process. But I don’t know what that means. The meeting was five minutes long and then it was done.”
The Union of Joy already had made plans for a meeting on March 15 to deal with layoffs earlier this year. The meetings are set for 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. that day at the union hall in Rocky Grove.
The union meetings will alert laid-off employees about retraining and education opportunities available through state and federal government.
The company had announced in January that it would begin laying off up to 130 people by the end of February and employ only a skeleton crew of 90-120 people to keep Plant 1 open. However, that changed Friday.
Deb Lutz, Union of Joy co-founder, said its leaders will regroup this weekend and get ready to help every displaced worker.
About 700 jobs have been cut from the Franklin and Reno plants since 2013 as the mining machinery industry was hit with a perfect storm of problems.
John Phillips, president and chief executive officer of the Oil Region Alliance tasked with economic development, said the problems weren’t regional but world-wide in scope.
The Chinese economy has slowed, virtually stopping coal and mineral mining in that country. That caused mining to slow around the world as China built less.
Because mining had been a hot industry, the slowdown caused a glut of commodities, including coal, and that continues to this day.
Natural gas prices hit and remain at historic lows making it a cheaper – and cleaner – fuel source than coal.
And finally regulatory pressures against fossil fuel use in the U.S. and around the world has decreased the need for coal. That could also be to blame for the bankruptcies of five major coal mining plants in the United States – all of them major Joy customers.
Phillips said the ORA is ready to work with Joy to see if there are other opportunities in the region for more jobs.
He said Friday’s news came at the same time he was at a conference in Altoona that revolved around $50 million in federal grants for communities impacted by coal’s downturn. He hopes the ORA is able to write grants for some of that money.
History in Franklin
Joseph Joy was given a patent in 1919 for a mining machine and a few years later bought a machine shop in Franklin to begin manufacturing his products.
Over the years the company became known for its premier and innovative mining solutions that made it an industry leader. They made all manner of underground mining equipment, from its early mechanical loader to shuttle cars to continuous mining machines.
At its height in employment, about 2,000 people worked for the company in the early 1980s.
One union official talked about how company presidents lived in Franklin and knew employees and their families by name.
That changed when the company was purchased by Milwaukee-based Harnischfeger Industries in 1994.
The current form of the company, Joy Global, emerged from bankruptcy in 2001.