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Epic cuts 60 jobs

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:51 PM

Epic Technologies, 200 E. Bluegrass Drive, is eliminating 60 jobs.

The company is on track to meet its goal to reduce staff by 25 percent entirely through voluntary buyouts, Human Resources Director Mary Matovich said Friday morning. The deadline to accept a buyout was Friday afternoon.

The buyouts are part of a company-wide restructuring. The electronic assembly firm also operates plants in Lebanon, Ohio, Johnson City, Tenn., and Juarez, Mexico.

Johnson City has reduced its workforce by about 15 percent. Some of the Norwalk plant's work has gone to Lebanon, which is seeing a 10 to 15 percent increase.

Two cells are being shifted from Norwalk to Juarez. Epic's two Juarez facilities are "growing by leaps and bounds," Steve Fries, Epic CFO, said. Epic employs about 1,500 in Juarez, compared to 280 (including 30 temps) currently in Norwalk.

The restructuring is occurring because Epic's customers constantly want the same thing for less, Fries said, explaining that electronic contract manufacturing is a very competitive business. "We're trying to do what the marketplace is driving us to do in the most humanistic way possible," Fries said.

That's why buyouts are being offered voluntarily and they are working with the Job Store to provide leaving employees with retraining opportunities, Fries said.

Mike Linden, in logistics, said he didn't see how the company could have saved many jobs by trimming other costs. "(We) run pretty lean," he said.

While he is not taking the buyout, Linden said he was tempted. "It's definitely a decent package."

Barb Cory, a surface mount technician at Epic, said that her friends who are taking the buyout are pretty happy with the package and are seeing it as an opportunity to do something new. They are just ready for a change, Cory said.

Naturally, the staff reduction has had a significant impact on morale and a lot of people are upset, she said. "Personally," Cory said, "I blame Bill Clinton for signing that bill (NAFTA)." Still, she guessed that the plant was divided in half between people who believe management and people who think it's all just an excuse to shift jobs to Mexico.

"If my life were being affected, I'd feel the same way about it to some degree," Fries said.

But, Fries said, the job-trimming is important to maintain the health of the company as a whole. The stark reality is that production is simply much cheaper in Mexico and the quality is "every bit as good."

The Juarez facility has not had an appreciable negative effect on employment in Norwalk before. When Juarez opened in 2002, Norwalk had about 230 total employees, 50 fewer than it has currently before the buyouts take effect.

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