York plant to close, 225 jobs lost

jzou@heraldonline.comDecember 11, 2013 

— A longtime York plant that manufactures filters will be shut down by next summer, resulting in more than 200 layoffs, according to a company official.

Keith Zar, vice president of UCI-Fram, the parent company that owns and operates Fram Filtration, confirmed on Wednesday plans to close the York plant in 2014.

The manufacturing and distribution facility sits on a 22-acre parcel on Ratchford Road. It was formerly known as the Champion Laboratories site, which is a subsidiary of UCI-Fram and is based in Illinois.

Zar said layoffs will come in phases, with the first round starting as early as April. The plant is scheduled to be completely closed by the start of July. He estimated the total number of plant employees at 225.

The company is meeting with employees regarding severance packages.

“We’re scaling back,” Zar said of the decision to close the plant. He explained that the company plans to produce fewer products in order to stay competitive in the filtration industry, which suffers from “overcapacity.”

Fram Filtration produces a variety of fuel and air filters.

York Mayor Eddie Lee was one of several local leaders who attended a Tuesday afternoon meeting at the plant when company executives first broke the news to employees.

“It ruined my day,” said Lee, pointing out that the announcement comes at an unfortunate time, just “two weeks before Christmas.”

“My first concern is for the employees,” Lee said.

The plant has been operational since the early 1980s with employees primarily from York or Chester counties. Lee called it a big loss for the area but vowed to work with employees to look for alternatives.

The announcement came as a surprise to Lee, who recalled the plant bouncing back from a round of layoffs during the economic downturn.

Zar said the decision to shut down the plant came after several “soft” years for the company and noted that the announcement’s timing is about giving the workforce as much advance notice as possible. “When we come to decisions like this, we want to communicate with the employees as soon as we can.”

He also noted that because other manufacturing sites are far from South Carolina, there weren’t talks to have affected employees transferred elsewhere. The York site is the only plant closure being announced by the company at this time, he said.

“It’s pretty devastating to the employees,“ said York County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell. “I’m sure our economic development head will do everything they can to put another company into that building.”

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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