Archive for Monday, January 26, 2009

Manufacturer to close Lawrence operation

About 55 employees are losing their jobs at Progress Vanguard.

January 26, 2009


The economic slowdown has scored another direct hit on a Lawrence manufacturer.

About 55 employees are losing their jobs as Progress Vanguard closes its Lawrence plant in East Hills Business Park.

The manufacturer of key engine replacement parts for railroad locomotives wasn’t able to survive the downturn in rail traffic that has come as manufacturers have fewer goods to ship.

“I’m afraid we’re part of that domino effect,” said Ken Lass, director of communications for Progress Rail Services. “Companies are manufacturing less goods, which means fewer products are being shipped by rail, which means fewer trains are running, and that means they need less maintenance. And that’s our business.”

The company began laying off employees at the end of last year. A few employees remain to clear the plant of equipment, Lass said. He said all operations at the plant should cease within a few days.

A handful of the 55 employees were able to transfer to a Progress Vanguard plant in Gering, Neb., but most employees are looking for new jobs. The company continues to operate about 130 plants across the country.

Lass said the Lawrence plant was chosen for closure because the company lost a pair of key contracts that had most of the work performed at the Lawrence plant.

“There just wasn’t enough business there to keep it going anymore,” Lass said.

Economic development leaders said the news was disappointing but also said they were keeping the loss in perspective.

“The fact that we haven’t had a mass exodus is a good thing,” said Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “There are a lot of areas seeing more shutdowns than what we’ve been experiencing.”

But job losses are starting to mount in the Lawrence area. The Progress Vanguard news comes a little more than a month after Amarr Garage Door Group announced it was cutting about 100 jobs at its Lawrence manufacturing plant. A massive downturn in the U.S. housing industry was behind those layoffs. Kansas University, the city’s largest employer, also recently announced that it was eliminating 11 filled jobs, and eliminating 110 vacant positions.

Johnson said efforts are under way to try to attract a new tenant to the 80,000-square-foot Progress Vanguard building, which was the first constructed in the business park. Progress Vanguard has been in the building since the mid-1990s. Prior to that, the building housed a veterinary medicine distributor.

“If you want to make lemonade out of lemons, it gives us a pretty good size building to market, and it has had a history of successfully housing companies,” Johnson said.

Progress Vanguard is a part of the Caterpillar Company, which on Monday announced 20,000 layoffs companywide.


Noweigh 9 years, 4 months ago

What tough news for Lawrence and the families of the employees. Odds are things will get worse here before they get better.Sure hope that all those who fought so hard for so long to keep jobs out of Lawrence at every turn and every opportunity can help these people find work.

alakazam 9 years, 4 months ago

my husband used to work for progress vanguard. key terms being used to. around nov. 2008 they got a letter stating that everyone would be out of a job on dec. 31st 2008 and that even management wasn't exempt from the layoffs. the employees who wanted to could relocate to gearing nebraska which is where they have a plant as well, quite a few upper managements relocated to that plant in nebraska.. they did loose a big contract but rumors of shutting the plant down started in the begining of )*. so needless to say this isn't a new story. most the progress vanguard people were laid off before the amarr people were. they started shipping out parts and machinery about 3 months ago making the plant a skeleton crew. the union that worked on the floor is supposed to get a settlement of 5 weeks worth of pay after the plant finally closes. but people were getting laid off what seemed like every day for the last 2 months so it doesn't really help those who got laid off before the plant was supposed to lay off the rest of the workers in having enough money to tie them over till they can recover from getting laid off. the company also filed for unemployment for the workers who can not relocate to nebraska, but some of them have not received their unemployment yet for some reason so they were advised to "file online".

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

Now they have 680,000 square feet available to the unknown at East Hills.

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

How can this be? Rail is the wave of the future!

hail2oldku 9 years, 4 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says… Didn't they go to Omaha or around there? I was told they wanted to be closer to where their product is needed.------------------------------------------------------------------------If what alakazam says is true, they are farther from Omaha than what they would be located in East Hills. Gearing, NE is out in the panhandle of the state.

blindrabbit 9 years, 4 months ago

The mentioned businesses are manufacturing, but Lawrence is having other longterm problems as well! If you want to speculate on the future of Downtown Lawrence, take a drive to Downtown Topeka (Kansas Avenue). Half of the storefronts are festooned with "For Rent" and "For Lease" signs. Our only saving grace is the continuation of eateries along Mass. St.. Want to bet what is going into what was Silverworks, Arensbergs, Second Chance and a couple of other "unannounced"All this as we eagerly await the opening of the new Walmart and the Commissioners and developers push for more retail expansion on West 6th Street and development of industrial parks West on the Farmers Turnpike and the Pine property near the airport.Sure seems like we're missing the warning signs!

blindrabbit 9 years, 4 months ago

Hawk: We have plenty of Industrial properties already zoned or as possibilities i.e. Farmers Co-Op Fertilizer Plant site, East Hills Industrial Park Vacancies, the old Callery Rocket Fuel Site on Lakeview Road all serviced by railroads. The Farmers Turnpike and Pine's site are not thus served; the Pine property especially so because of nervousness of placing rail lines in the proximity of the Airport. What would have happened if all you propose would have occurred; more vacancies?!?! Does the City have the capability of servicing your proposed annexations?, just look at the Street situation in town! What about water and sewerage.Wait, in a couple of months, I'm sure there will be other existing industrial sites available. By-the-way, I agree about the favored treatment given to a few individuals with City Hall connections.

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

Why would any large or medium size retailer want to go downtown when most that tried have gone away? With the high rents, high property values, high property and sales taxes, lack of free parking, subsidized local competitors, and limited business hours, success is marginal in good economic times. Let's not forget to add the level of hatred regularly spewed at them by the Bozo Business Czar, Richard Heckler, et. al. Local mom-n-pop businesses can't afford the rents and offer affordable products. If the landlords downtown want to fill their buildings they have only to cut their rents in half. No one "loves bad economic news" but this wasn't entirely unforeseeable. Years of misguided policies based on ideology and not economics has only aggravated locally a bad national economy.

smokey 9 years, 4 months ago

if theres no jobs will the T continue to drive around and pollute the ozone with no one on it?

sbdad 9 years, 4 months ago

and American Eagle in Ottawa, remember them? we didn't want them, they are adding jobs. And I have a friend tell me they are the best company he ever worked for, and the wages aren't that bad. A little bit of something is better than a whole of nothing.

budwhysir 9 years, 4 months ago

I believe that business is business and the economy is not controlled by location alone. This company could have been located anywhere and still loose the contract. But who are we not to be mad. Blame the city Blame the customer, what about the economy? What about the product?

rusty2 9 years, 4 months ago

i know!the solution is to repave Kasold to the SLT!that's what we really need.

Keith 9 years, 4 months ago

You can't have the Callery site, Westar is using it to store leftover fly ash. Hope it doesn't run off into the river.

Keith 9 years, 4 months ago

"Marion (Marion Lynn) says…Oh, crap, I posted this on the wrong thread:"That could be said about every one of your postings.

notajayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

smokey (Anonymous) says… "if theres no jobs will the T continue to drive around and pollute the ozone with no one on it?"That would be different how, again?

lawthing 9 years, 4 months ago

We are going to see a lot more crime and desperate people in this community if this keeps up.

BigPrune 9 years, 4 months ago

As the world goes by and Lawrence feels the full effects of its anti-growth attitude these past 8 years and couple this with the national economic downturn, one has to wonder....when will the City of Lawrence open its eyes? All indications say it is too late. Let's do more important things like form "the future $5 per gallon of gasoline task force." Totally clueless, these clowns at the helm. Change Lawrence's name to Titanic.

WWoftheW 9 years, 4 months ago

The only difference between whether we had approved all the development or not is the amount of vacancies and the money spent by the city for the vacancies infrastructure.

alakazam 9 years, 4 months ago

i think it's a tad funny that there are more articles about progress vanguard now that people say they were screwed over. some of these people have been doing this forever and now the plant up and closes. it's hard to find a good paying job around here. the stimulus needs to be for the little guys not the big guys. bail out the families struggling to make ends meet, create jobs not short term jobs like repaving a road or building a building that is going to house people who are already working there. sorry i believe that if you help the little man the country will build itself back up because people are willing to spend money and stimulate an economy that they feel stable in. if they don't trust the economy to be stable they will want to save their money not spend it.

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