Tenneco: No ‘sustainable business case’ to keep Kettering plant open

Planned Tenneco closure two years from now impacts 650 workers today

Automotive parts producer Tenneco Inc. intends to close its Kettering plant before 2024, an economic blow to the city and a region that still prides itself for its manufacturing strength.

“It’s a great team down there in Kettering. It’s a difficult day, it’s a difficult decision,” Tenneco spokesman Steve Blow said.

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Given economic factors such as market oversaturation of shock absorber production and higher steel prices and material costs, it doesn’t make business sense to continue production at the Kettering plant, Blow said.

“It’s not a sustainable business case, no,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation. But unfortunately, in the end, looking at it at every possible angle, it doesn’t look like a business case that can be supported.”

The 2555 Woodman Drive plant makes shock absorbers.

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The Kettering facility, which employs 648 employees today, is expected to be closed before the end of 2023, Tenneco said.

Some 450 of those workers are members of the IUE-CWA union, workers like Tyra Williams, a Dayton resident who has worked at the 2555 Woodman Drive plant since Delphi operated it.

“It’s kind of like a flashback, almost,” Williams said outside the plant Thursday. “We are in contract negotiations right now, so we didn’t know they were going to announce this, any of us. So it’s kind of hard.”

Asked if incentives or overtures from Ohio or Kettering could alter the decision, Blow said: “It’s an overall market competitiveness issue. That’s a challenge that doesn’t come down to the local level so much.”

The Lake Forest, Ill.-based company said it will provide transition assistance for affected employees, including some opportunities to transfer to other Tenneco locations.

“The company and union will be meeting in the coming weeks to bargain on these topics,” Tenneco said in an email.

As recently as 2017, a Montgomery County ED/GE (Economic Development/Government Equity) grant of $500,000 was awarded to Kettering for the Tenneco operation.

“In recent years, Tenneco ownership has poured over $70 million dollars into the Kettering facility, and the company has received over $11 million in various taxpayer subsidies, including over $2 million from the state of Ohio,” the IUE-CWA said in a statement.

“The investments were a testament to the efforts that were put into it to try to make it work, to try to make it feasible,” Tenneco’s Blow said.

After Delphi stepped away from the plant early in the Great Recession of 2008, the future looked uncertain at best for the facility before Tenneco occupied it.

As recently as July 2019, the global manufacturer was hosting a job fair there, seeking to fill entry-level manufacturing operator positions as well as skilled-trades jobs including tool-makers, CNC (computer numeric control machine) operators, paint machine operators, electricians and more.

“I am in disbelief that Tenneco would put over 500 people out of work like this,” Tenneco worker Stacey Dunlap said in a IUE-CWA release. “I have worked at this plant for over 13 years, and I have shown up to do my job and been a good worker. I am a single mom with a son to take care of. If Tenneco closes the plant, it will be devastating for my family.”

“On Veteran’s Day, we should be honoring those who have served, but instead, Tenneco is betraying veterans, workers and our community by offshoring jobs,” IUE-CWA President Carl Kennebrew said. “Our workforce is highly-skilled and well-trained, and they have helped make this company a success.”

An executive with the the Dayton Development Coalition said the Dayton region has numerous jobs open.

“While today’s news is difficult, I am confident these individuals will find new opportunities in our region,” said Julie Sullivan, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of regional development. “They have highly valuable skills and we and our workforce development partners will help them connect to new employers.”

Workers and Democratic candidates for Ohio governor, Nan Whaley, and U.S Senate, Tim Ryan, stood outside the gate of the company on Thursday.

“Shipping these jobs overseas will be devastating for our community,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “This irresponsible, reckless decision by Tenneco is a betrayal of the hundreds of workers and their families who have invested their time and energy into this company.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state was reaching out to Tenneco executives.

“I am deeply disappointed that Tenneco has announced plans to close its Kettering plant, which would negatively impact the lives of 650 Ohioans and their families,” DeWine said in a statement. “JobsOhio and its partners are working to engage with Tenneco to explore solutions on how the company can succeed in Kettering.”

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