New contract for Sealy plant

September 8, 2010 5:16:16 PM PDT
A local town that's been hit extremely hard by layoffs has finally gotten some good news. We first told you last year about an army contract falling through for BAE Systems in Sealy. The impact cost 1,300 people their jobs. Now nearly the same amount of workers officially have job security -- at least for the next two years. While things seemed pretty grim, we've learned the company has been awarded a new multi-million dollar contract. It's a fact that may have saved even more people their jobs.

The $629 million contract was awarded September 1. BAE will be put to work upgrading multi-terrain vehicles. While the contract essentially guarantees the remaining 1,400 employees at the plant jobs until the end of 2011, it's too late for Patti Kephart's father-in-law.

"You think about everything," Kephart said. "You think about bills, you think about food."

Last month BAE announced it was going to have to lay off 1,100 to 1,300 employees after losing a $3 billion contract with the US Army. The job cuts will proceed, despite the latest news.

"Because we had already factored in this new work into our decision," said BAE spokesperson Davy Kong.

The company says it is working diligently to attain new contracts. But given the competitive nature of the business and cuts in national defense spending, the future is uncertain.

In Sealy, where the plant is located, officials are trying to find ways to make up for the lost jobs.

"We still are moving forward," said Sealy Mayor Nick Tirey. "We still have a couple of commercial parks. We're still working on a brand-new frontage road to bring businesses in."

The mayor says if there is a silver lining, it's that more jobs were not lost, thanks to the new contract, which had been in the works for some time, adding that BAE still has a good relationship with the government to attract other contracts.

For Kephart, fortunately her father-in-law did manage to find a new job, but others may not be so lucky.

She said, "There will probably always be a time that you will suffer for a little bit, but you get right back up and go out for the next day."

Those layoffs are taking place right now. Contract workers should be finding out if they will keep their job by the end of October. The rest of the layoffs will be done by the end of this year.

We worked on this story with the cooperation of the Katy Sun, one of our Houston Community Newspaper partners.


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