LIMA — A recent transition at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center has been tough on management and employees alike, though plant manager Hank Kennedy said they all know it’s “going to come out of this.”
“It’s tough on the workforce to learn new jobs, to do the amount of work it’s going to take,” he said at the Task Force Lima meeting on Monday.
The government-owned, contractor-operated tank and military vehicle production facility is assembling about one Abrams tank a month through the rest of this year and fabricating about 10 Stryker hulls a month, the latter number being normal, Kennedy said.
The transition to one Abrams a month has been tough, Kennedy said.
Before, employees were responsible for one part of the task to assemble the tank, now they do many parts of the assembly and have to memorize 20 days worth of work, he said.
Employment at the plant is at a low of 450.
Though the rest of this year is lean, production and employment should ramp back up in 2016, Kennedy said.
Task Force Lima, a group of community leaders and stakeholders dedicated to keeping the facility open, heard “a flash today of work coming back into the JSMC,” said Denny Glenn, retired JSMC employee and project manager for a federal workforce grant the Allen County commissioners received, at the task force’s meeting on Monday.
Morocco may soon be a customer of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, according to a 2012 news release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The contract would be for “enhancement and refurbishment” of 200 M-1A1 Abrams tanks, according to the release, with the JSMC getting a chunk of the $1.02 billion contract, though the sale is not final.
If the Morocco contract goes through, there’s a possibility new employees will be needed to, which is where the Allen County Commissioners’ Office of Economic Adjustment grant comes in, Glenn said.
“When Hank says I need [employees], they’re there and ready to jump into that job,” Glenn said.
The $219,680 grant, now in its first phase, funds workforce strategies in relation to the JSMC and is meant to ensure that if there is a production decrease at the plant, and resulting layoffs, the workforce is still there. The Regional Growth Partnership also contributed $25,000 to the first phase.
Glenn announced at Monday’s task force meeting that he has turned in a third draft of the phase two grant proposal, asking for $4 million. He’s waiting for a response from the OEA to see if a fourth draft is needed. Then it’ll wait to hear if the grant is approved.
If approved, phase two will start on Sept. 1, right after phase one ends.
Glenn won’t be the project manager for phase two, as he’s seeking a replacement so he can continue his retirement and potentially serve on the Ohio Federal Military Jobs Commission, which the task force is recommending him for.
“I’m going to stay on as long as it takes to hopefully get phase two approved and off,” Glenn said.
Glenn is optimistic about the next phase of the grant.
“It’s going to do nothing but improve our community and our relationships we have,” he said. “Right now we are in a very good position … It’s becoming very very competitive now but we do have a good relationship” with OEA.
Reach Danae King at 567-242-0511 or on Twitter @DanaeKing.