LIMA — A revival may be underway at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, but the question of long-term sustainability still lingers on the minds of those who witnessed the facility’s decline in the early part of this decade.
“To me, that is an unsolved issue,” said Mayor David Berger, who raised the question during a Task Force Lima meeting at the JSMC Monday.
Berger said a long-term formula is needed to sustain the tank plant throughout the course of the boom-bust defense spending cycle the facility is subjected to, otherwise the JSMC risks backsliding.
The question affects all aspects of the JSMC as the tank plant reboots from years of disinvestment.
Employment has grown to 635, with the tank plant adding new employees on a near-weekly basis to meet current production needs. But recruiting skilled workers has been challenging as the tank plant competes with other manufacturers in the region. An uncertain future for the tank plant presents yet another challenge for recruiters.
“That’s what we’re up against here is the possibility of layoffs,” said Joe Patton, director of Ohio Means Jobs-Allen County and the Allen County Department of Job and Family Services, which is recruiting welders and assemblers in the latest round of hiring at the tank plant.
The topic is one task force members hope to discuss with representatives from the Pentagon and others when the task force heads to Washington, D.C. The task force is in the early phases of planning the trip, which will mark the first time the group has traveled to the nation’s capital since 2017.
“It’d be an ideal situation to summarize what we’re coming off of and where we are today (and) the value of trying to avoid the situation we were in 2012-2014,” said Hank Kennedy, plant manager for the JSMC.
“We don’t want to go back to what happened,” said Kennedy. But Kennedy highlighted several major investments the government has made to reboot the tank plant, like switching from coal to natural gas, investing in new lighting and replacing about 5 miles of railroad infrastructure. “There’s a tremendous amount of change going on.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.