SEALY, Texas -- BAE Systems has announced plans to shut down the military vehicle plant that was once the largest employer in the small town of Sealy.
Military spending cutbacks prompted the decision, company officials said, just as they’ve triggered a series of layoffs as the U.S. wound down its involvement in Iraq. The plant that once provided jobs to more than 3,000 people now employs only 325 workers.
BAE Systems officials said many longtime employees probably saw the closure coming.
“I believe, through the multiple layoffs over the last year-and-a- half to two years, that people recognized that the reduction was eventually going to get to a point where this facility would have to be closed,” said John Machisak, the plant’s director of operations.
The plant has produced more than 75,000 military vehicles since it opened in 1990, but its success during its heyday seemingly played a role in its eventual closing. The Pentagon ordered so many heavily armored tactical vehicles during the Iraq war, it has more than enough vehicles now that the war has wound down, company officials said.
“The market was flooded,” Machisak said. “And at the same time, military spending was cut.”
A small number of the plant’s employees will probably transfer to BAE posts in other cities, but company officials said most of them will just lose their jobs. All of them will be eligible for a severance package, company officials said.
BAE Systems is no longer as important to Sealy’s economy as it was a decade ago. A Wal-Mart distribution facility that’s now the city’s largest employer has 725 workers, city officials said.
“Obviously, the city is very saddened by the news today,” said Kim Meloneck, Executive Director of the Sealy Economic Development Corporation. “But we are optimistic.”
Sealy city officials will try to find another business interested in occupying the plant.