Kettering: Tenneco has met incentives as business shocks city with plans to pull 650 jobs

KETTERING — A 2016 incentive deal has been met by Tenneco, a city official said Thursday, after Kettering officials were “shocked” the business announced it would be closing a plant that employs about 650 jobs.

The automobile parts manufacturer told Kettering officials Thursday morning it would be “winding down” operations at 2555 Woodman Drive after next year with plans to shut down before 2024, City Manager Mark Schwieterman said.

It is the second top five Kettering employer to announce a departure since September 2020.

In the wake of Thursday’s announcement, city officials reviewed if Tenneco had met provisions of a deal Kettering approved more than five years ago, according to Mary Azbill, Kettering community information manager.

“The company is in compliance,” Azbill said in an email Thursday afternoon.

In 2017, Kettering City Council approved accepting a $500,000 Montgomery County ED/GE grant for Tenneco, which makes shock absorbers.

A few months earlier, the city approved a deal with Tenneco estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million over five to seven years.

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Schwieterman said the city’s “first indication about the closure” came Thursday morning when notified by Tenneco, despite what he said was a “good working relationship” with the company.

While also noting the city’s relationship with Tenneco, Kettering Mayor Don Patterson said in a statement that “we were shocked and sad to hear their two-year plan to leave our city.”

“Our hearts go out to the employees who will be impacted over the next 24 months,” Patterson added.

Schwieterman said “now we’ll focus on working with Tenneco as they wind down through 2022-23 and work with the families to try to find jobs for everybody.”

Kettering Mayor-elect Peggy Lehner said she will be “spending a fair amount of time over the next couple of weeks” getting briefed on city issues as she prepares to replace Patterson, who is term-limited.

If Tenneco’s decision is firm, “we’ll just have to double up efforts to find other opportunities for those workers in our area,” Lehner said.

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Tenneco is the city’s fifth largest employer behind Kettering Medical Center (3,500), the Reynolds & Reynolds Co. (1,350), Kettering City Schools (1,208) and Mast Global Digital (1,000), Kettering records show. It accounts for about 2% of the city’s jobs, but Schwieterman declined when asked to provide Tenneco’s annual payroll.

Tenneco is the second of Kettering’s major employers to announce plans to leave the city in the past 15 months. Synchrony Financial said in September 2020 it would move out of the city by the beginning of 2021 due to a shift in the Stamford, Conn-based company’s global strategy.

Synchrony had about 1,900 jobs in Kettering Business Park and at the time both it and Tenneco were among Kettering’s top five largest employers, records show.

Kettering will have more time to absorb Tenneco’s departure than it had with Synchrony.

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“They do intend to remain in production,” Schwieterman said. “I think the (phrase) they used was full production. They would remain in full production in 2022 and then wind down for closure in 2023.”

Moving forward, Patterson said, “we will do our utmost for the impacted employees.”

Both he and Schwieterman said an immediate concern is the futures of the current Kettering Tenneco workers.

“Right now what we’ll focus on is how we can support the families that are impacted by this decision so that they can continue to work at Tenneco as well as find jobs post closure,” the city manager said.

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TOP CITY EMPLOYERS

•Kettering Medical Center: 3,500

•Reynolds & Reynolds Co: 1,350

•Kettering City Schools: 1,208

•Mast Global Digital: 1,000

•Tenneco: 650

SOURCE: City of Kettering

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