Hexcel Corporation, one of Casa Grande’s largest employers, has laid off workers at its plant there as the aviation industry continues to get hammered by the drastic reduction in travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“With air travel at a virtual standstill and customer plants idled around the world, Hexcel faces an enormous challenge to ensure our continued viability as a company and to continue to employ as many of our talented employees as possible,” company spokeswoman Kaye Veazey said.
“Currently, job reductions are affecting almost every Hexcel site, region and function as we restructure our business to align with lower customer demand,” she added.
Rose said Hexcel is not releasing the number of employees being let go, but media reports have estimated they number at least several hundred. Hexcel, based in Stamford, Connecticut, says on its website it has more than 7,000 employees in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Rose said the Casa Grande manufacturing site continues to employ more than 400 people, and “Hexcel Casa Grande is an essential part of our company, producing critical parts for our customers.”
According to “A Growing Horizon,” an economic development brochure for the City of Casa Grande published in 2019, Hexcel had about 590 employees at its site at 1214 W. Gila Bend Highway.
The plant was established in 1965 and produces much of Hexcel’s honeycomb core, a lightweight, aluminum structural element for commercial and military aircraft, helicopters and other industrial applications. It’s more recently expanded into a noise-reducing honeycomb barrier for aircraft options.
“The layoffs affected both hourly production workers as well as salaried employees. In all cases, employees were offered severance packages that provided salary continuation for a period of time, generally depending on their years of service with the company,” Veazey said.
Other cost-cutting measures announced by the company in late April include pay cuts and unpaid furloughs for all remaining salaried employees, elimination of all contract labor and reducing spending to essential purchases only, Veazey said.
Earlier in the month Hexcel and Woodward Inc., which makes control system components for the aerospace and industrial sectors, called off a planned merger valued at $5 billion. Hexcel had already lost some revenue to Boeing’s troubles with the 737 MAX aircraft.
City of Casa Grande Economic Development Director Richard Wilkie said given the state of the travel industry, it’s not surprising Hexcel is having to cut back.
“It’s a leader in the commercial aviation industry, and this virus, it’s really thrown the whole aviation industry into chaos,” he said.
Lucid Motors and Nacero Inc., newer manufacturers building or planning to build factories in Casa Grande may not be as affected by the crisis. “I don’t see this virus as having as big an impact on those companies, because they’re not selling anything yet,” Wilkie said.
The City continues to support those plans while it focuses on helping local small businesses weather the current economy, so they can continue creating jobs once the recovery begins, he said.