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450 to be laid off at Daimler’s Cleveland plant

CLEVELAND — Daimler Trucks North America says the past 12 months have brought record sales and production volumes but it will lay off 450 workers at its Cleveland plant as the market returns to normal.

The Cleveland plant will be joined in making layoffs by another manufacturing plant in Mount Holly, which also will lay off 450 workers. The layoffs will be effective Oct. 14.

“This leveling off in the market requires us to adjust our production levels to meet the normalized demand and therefore reduce our current build rates and employment levels at these locations,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We have already witnessed some of our industry competitors making changes in their production plans and employment levels to accommodate.”

On its website, Daimler says the Cleveland plant has 2,878 employees, putting it among the top three employers in Rowan County. The Mount Holly plant in Gaston County has 1,714 employees.

The Cleveland plant produces the Class 8 Cascadia; the Western Star 4700, 4900 and 5700XE truck models; and the Freightliner Coronado and Columbia for the right-hand drive Australian and New Zealand markets.

Layoffs are not new to the Cleveland plant. Daimler has historically raised and lowered employment with demand. And 2016 was a particularly tough year for layoffs, with the company decreasing its total employment by more than 1,000 people.

But Rowan County commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said these layoffs are unlike those in prior times.

“There are a lot of employers that are looking for a lot of folks to fill jobs,” Edds said. “This is not like other times where there were layoffs and not many jobs. This is a time when there are layoffs and jobs available.”

The layoff announcement comes roughly one month since Daimler Trucks North America marked the production of the 750,000th vehicle at the Cleveland facility, which the company acquired in 1989. At the time, Roger Nielsen, CEO of the company, said the Cleveland plant has served as “the foundation for our North American manufacturing operations and has been an integral part of our growth, innovation and leadership.”

In August, the Cleveland facility was Daimler Trucks’ largest manufacturing plant in the U.S.

Rod Crider, president of the Rowan County Economic Development Commission, said the company had communicated around the time of the 750,000-vehicle milestone that demand for new trucks was declining.

“So, it wasn’t totally unexpected, but that’s not a lot of comfort to the people who are out of a job,” Crider said. “To them, I would say that there are many other local employers who are in need of qualified workers and talent.”

In response to the layoffs, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College said it will offer its R3 Career Services to affected workers, covering training exploration, career readiness certification, resume writing and interview skills.

Participants in the R3 program can explore careers in transportation, health care and construction and opportunities available to the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute training program. Scholarship opportunities are available, the college said.

For more information, contact the R3 Center at r3@rccc.edu or 704-216-7201.

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