Sauer-Danfoss to cut up to 15 percent of its East Hills Business Park workforce

Local work force nearly halved from 2006 level

Sauer-Danfoss on Friday cut 12 to 16 positions from its Lawrence plant, and company leaders said they are uncertain if the worst is behind the firm that has been battered by the downturn in the construction industry.

“I would say there is nobody in our company feeling real secure because of our dramatic change in sales,” said Matt Bendler, the company’s human resources director for the Americas and Asia Pacific regions. “There is a huge burden that every employee is walking through the door with.”

The company Friday morning announced it would cut 10 percent to 15 percent of the workforce at its East Hills Business Park plant. Bendler said the company likely would be left with just over 100 employees at the plant. In 2006, the company had a few more than 200 employees at the plant.

The plant makes transmission parts for a variety of construction and off-highway vehicles. In the past year, worldwide sales for the company have dropped nearly 50 percent, Bendler said.

Friday’s cuts come after a round of layoffs in January that eliminated about 20 positions from the Lawrence plant. Bendler said he could not address with any certainty the longer term future of the plant.

“I can’t say that Lawrence should feel more concerned than anybody else in the company, but I also can’t say the environment is good for anybody in the company,” Bendler said.

A spokeswoman with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce said the chamber was remaining optimistic about the future for Sauer-Danfoss in Lawrence.

“We are always sorry to hear a local industry having to make cuts, and the effect that has on individuals and families,” said Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the chamber. “However, we are also glad that Sauer-Danfoss is able to maintain a Lawrence location and will be ready to step up when the economy rebounds.”

Bendler said the company hasn’t yet started to see clear signs of a rebound. He said some sales in the division encompassing North America and South America had started to show some signs of stabilization.

“It is not a huge positive thing yet, but in this day and age, we’ll take not going further negative as a good sign,” Bendler said.