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Kuhlman's sale prompts closing of Versailles plant

Kuhlman Electric Corp. is closing its Versailles plant and eliminating 185 jobs, the company announced Friday.

Kuhlman said, however, that it will keep its Versailles headquarters, which has about 15 employees.

The exact number was not available Friday.

"It's a heart-breaker for the city of Versailles," said Mayor Fred Siegelman, who noted that Kuhlman has employed several generations of local families since 1969.

"Obviously we will work with them and do anything we can to help," Siegelman said. "I'm already searching to try to bring someone else there for manufacturing, jobs and the tax base."

The current recession will make that search more difficult, he said. "It's very tough."

On Monday, Kuhlman announced the sale of part of its transformer production lines in Versailles to Power Partners Inc. of Athens, Ga.

That sale will go forward, and it was to have eliminated about 100 of the 185 jobs.

After further evaluation, Kuhlman said it decided the plant would not be viable after the sale.

"Due to the downturn in the economy and a continuing weak housing industry and after careful consideration and negotiation with the union" that represents many Kuhlman workers, the company said production of other types of transformers would be halted at the plant.

Production lines not sold to Power Partners will be moved to other ABB Ltd. locations around the country by the end of the year.

ABB is a Swiss company that bought Kuhlman from the Carlyle Group in July, when Kuhlman's sales were reported as $250 million for 2007.

"Kuhlman regrets the impact this will have on those employees and their families," the company said in a statement. "It was a very difficult decision to make. Efforts are under way to assist employees through this difficult transition."

Details of possible job openings at other Power Partners and ABB facilities will be given to the affected employees, the company said.

"We anticipate the shutdown of the manufacturing operations (in Versailles) will be a gradual process and we believe it will be completed between late September and mid-December 2009," Kuhlman said.

Severance benefits are being negotiated by the company and the union.

Kuhlman said more information would be released as it becomes available.

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