Manheim firm said to be moving across ocean
Universal Friction Components operations in Manheim, Lancaster County, which has said it will soon close its doors, plans to reopen them in Wales, United Kingdom, according to an employee who asked not to be named.
When asked of the relocation, Rod Laukhuff, director of human resources at UFC, said "there's a great deal of uncertainty as to what exactly will be relocated. I have no first-hand knowledge of that."
Formerly known as Raymark Industries Inc., the company once employed as many as 1,500 people manufacturing among other things, asbestos.
But that number has dwindled to 169 today, according to Chazz Lyon, borough manager.
UFC now makes "nonasbestos yarns for clutch and brake linings," according to www.corptech.com, a database of company information.
Moreover, UFC is no longer directly affiliated with its former parent company, Raymark Industries Inc., though its president, Brad Smith, is the son of Raymark's president, Craig Smith.
Raymark has been plagued with asbestos lawsuits and saddled with a federal Environmental Protection Agency Superfund clean-up site in Stratford, Conn., according to the EPA's Web site.
The company made headlines in September when it sued five tobacco giants in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, accusing them of contributing to "injury and deaths" of people to whom it paid more than $400 million to settle asbestos related claims, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.
UFC, meanwhile, has its own set of environmental concerns.
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection's Web site, UFC had incurred environmental violations due to poor maintenance of "certain air pollution control equipment." The violations "are being resolved through institution of a rigorous operations and maintenance plan."
The employee said the high cost of compliance has persuaded the company to move to Wales, where the government is providing it with a relocation grant.
"The ownership finds that the government has not been friendly," the employee said. "So they have decided to buy a facility on the other side of the world, which already has all the processes they need. And their customer base in the States is not shook up, since the products will be duty-free coming back into the States."
Added the employee, "the tragedy is only that if this business was eventually going to go, it's been hurried up. The state of Pennsylvania has not been very aggressive in keeping this businesses here."
Lynn Lawson, spokeswoman for the Governor's Action Team, said the company had not approached her office for assistance, but noted the team will contact UFC to "see what it can do."
Borough Manager Lyon, said the borough is concerned about the loss of jobs, but not surprised.
He added that the company had been "very cooperative." Much of the original site is already filled by other businesses, leasing space from the company, he added.
Still, Manheim is anxious to fill the gap left by UFC's departure and is trying to "foster the formation of an economic development corporation."
On Nov. 7, the state Department of Labor & Industry announced UFC's employees are eligible for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance, a variety of benefits provided to workers whose jobs are lost due to foreign competition.
MARK ROSNICK photo:
Portions of the Universal Friction Composites complex on Stiegel Street, Manheim, are vacant while other parts have been leased as the company makes ready to relocate to Wales.