South Portland manufacturer to close, eliminate 40 jobs

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The parent company of Portland Valve announced it would close the manufacturer by the end of the year, eliminating the jobs of 40 workers.

Portland Valve, at 1 Madison St., was founded in 1973. It has been a U.S. Navy and U.S. Army subcontractor and also makes systems for the commercial power generation, aircraft, electronics, oil and gas, and shipbuilding industries, according to its website.

Colfax Corp., the parent company, said the plant’s work will be moved to a facility in Warren, Mass.

“Although we regret the impact that the plant closing will have on our associates in Portland, this move supports our continued efforts to improve productivity and reduce structural costs by rationalizing and leveraging our existing assets and back-office functions,” Colfax President and CEO Clay Kiefaber said in a prepared statement.

The company says it will save about $1 million annually by consolidating operations in Massachusetts.

In a written statement, City Manager Jim Gailey expressed sympathy for the plight of Portland Valve’s workers: 

“Anytime that you lose a long-standing company that employs a skilled decent paid workforce within your community, it’s a loss,” Gailey said. “The City is sorry to hear of the news and wish the employees the best of luck in the relocation to Massachusetts or reemployment here in Maine.”

Although the future may look bleak for the workers, a state Department of Labor spokesman said they may actually be better suited for the job market than unemployed people in other parts of Maine.

“We’ll be interested in finding out the skill-set of the workers there,” said Adam Fisher of the Labor Department. “There are companies in southern Maine that are desperate to find skilled workers.”

Though Fisher declined to identify those companies, he said different businesses had contacted the department’s York County Career Center, saying they needed skilled machinists.

“Every job loss is hard, especially for the person who lost it,” Fisher said. “But in the Portland job market, there are more alternatives for someone who’s lost their job than there would be for people in other more rural parts of the state. … But still, the best-case scenario is still awful news for workers impacted by a layoff.”

Fisher said that because it seems the workers aren’t losing their jobs immediately, the department will have time to meet with them and offer assistance, guidance and services. He said the department may send its Rapid Response team to inform the workers about unemployment benefits and other options, including the career center or education.

The announcement at Portland Valve was the second large layoff announced in greater Portland this week. Barber Foods on Monday disclosed it would lay off 83 employees in Portland.

South Portland Mayor Rosemarie De Angelis said she was surprised by the news Portland Valve would close.

“It’s frightening in this economy when a company closes and people lose their jobs,” De Angelis said. “We’re in a down economy already and we don’t want people to suddenly be out of work.”

Mario Moretto can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow Mario on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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