Honda closure creates painful ripple effect

A Honda employee works on compressor components for ventilators in Marysville. CONTRIBUTED

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A Honda employee works on compressor components for ventilators in Marysville. CONTRIBUTED

Latest layoffs total 543 by Brookville supplier

Honda is one of the biggest automakers and employers in Ohio and its cessation of production in late March has had painful ripple effects.

Most recently, Green Tokai in Brookville temporarily furloughed workers, the company told the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in a letter dated Thursday.

“It is our intention to reopen operations in early May, if possible, but reopening will depend on circumstances associated with COVID-19, which are unknown and out of our control,” Kelli Todd, Green Tokai human resources manager, said in the letter.

Honda is Green Tokai’s largest customer, and that automaker has shut down all American operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Honda suspended auto production on March 23, joining General Motors, Ford and other producers who also halted production about that time. Green Tokai isn’t the only affected auto supplier. Advanced Composites Inc. in Sidney, Greenville Technology Inc. in Darke County and many others have also filed WARN notices about large-scale layoffs.

“The pandemic impact and automotive market is changing daily so we are putting ourselves in a position to be ready to come back on line as soon as our customer needs and requirements return,” Chris Millice, senior vice president of manufacturer KTH Parts Industries, told the Springfield News-Sun.

“At this time we are planning to start up mass production May 4th, again depending on all of our customer requirements,” said Millice, whose company is a Honda supplier in St. Paris.

KTH has 654 full-time workers temporarily laid off and 125 contingent workers temporarily laid off.

Honda itself has been forced to shift its approach. In a LinkedIn message by Rick Schostek, Honda North America Inc. executive vice president, Schostek said Honda’s Technical Development Center in Marysville has been transformed to make compressors for ventilators.

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The center has been turned into an assembly area where workers “will soon make diaphragm vacuum compressors, developed by Dynaflo, Inc.,” Schostek said. “The compressor is a key component of critically needed medical ventilators that provide a constant source of air to stricken patients. With support from Dynaflo, we are working toward a goal of producing 10,000 compressors a month.”

In 2016, Green Tokai invested nearly $8 million in buildings and equipment in a Brookville expansion that was then expected to create 57 new jobs.

Then in its 29th year, Green Tokai had 625 workers in Brookville and more than 300 at a Maysville, Ky. plant.

The company is a maker of automotive weather strips, moldings and seals, born of a joint venture between Ernie Green Industries and Tokai Kogyo. Green’s share was later bought out.

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In Dayton, financial services/debt collection company CBCS notified the state that it is laying off 17 employees, that company said in its own WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice) Act.

The pandemic is clearly taking a toll. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in March, up from 4.1 percent in February, the state said Friday. Ohio’s non-agricultural wage and salary employment decreased 39,700 over the month, from a revised 5,599,100 in February to 5,559,400 in March 2020.

The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in March was 314,000, up 73,000 from 241,000 in February, the state said.

Springfield News-Sun Staff Writer Hasan Karim contributed to this story. 

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