The scheduled closing date for General Electric’s Somerset Glass Plant is August 11, however some production lines are being shut down, resulting in employees being laid off ahead of the closing date, according to Alicia Gauer, director of communications, GE Lighting, Cleveland, Ohio. General Electric announced late last summer that glass plants in Somerset and Lexington would close.
“While our intent was to run production until the August 11 plant closure date, due to further volume reductions tied to the accelerated technology shift, some production lines will stop ahead of the closure,” Gauer announced this week. Somerset Glass Plant currently has 70 employees.
The lighting industry has seen a major technology pivot away from traditional lighting products, including incandescent, halogen, and specialty linear fluorescent lamps. Consumer demand for traditional lighting is at an all-time low, and that shift has been supported by the U.S. Government phasing out incandescent bulbs. As a result, volume is down dramatically at the Somerset Glass Plant, and the facility is operating at 70 percent below capacity, which is just not sustainable, Gauer said.
An industry source says half of the U.S. market’s consumer light bulb sockets will be LED by 2020 and more than 80 percent of all global lighting revenues will come from LED. (LED stands for light-emitting diode. An LED bulb is a semiconductor device that converts electricity into light energy. When the electrical current passes through, light is made).
“Somerset Glass Plant employees impacted (by production line shutdowns) will be eligible for layoff benefits as of their last day worked, including GE’s Income Extension Aid (IEA) which provides continuation of all benefits and 90 percent of an employee’s normal weekly pay,” Gauer noted
“These benefits will continue until the plant closure date, at which time (employees) will be eligible for our plant closing benefits including severance pay, continued medical, dental and life insurance coverage for the employee and his/her covered dependents,” Gauer said. Also, employees will receive tuition reimbursement for education and retraining as well as preferential job placement at up to 12 GE locations.
Seventy percent of current employees at Somerset Glass Plant will be eligible for retirement benefits when the local plant closes. The remaining 30 percent will get extended plant closing benefits, Gauer revealed.
The iconic Somerset General Electric Glass Plant has provided stable and well-paid jobs in Somerset for 60 years. It was the second major manufacturing plant to locate here at the start of what might be called an industrial revolution that saw such firms as American Metal Products (later Lear Siegler) and Crane Company become a backbone of economic life in Pulaski County. Palm Beach, the first major factory employing hundreds of women, opened in 1946.
A fact sheet released by the General Electric gives a timeline for establishment and development of Somerset Glass Plant:
1957 –– Plant construction begins on the 85-acre site (off University Drive).
1959 — Production of photo reflectors with hand press on the plant’s small furnace, and production of automotive lenses and reflectors using the plant’s large furnace begins.
1960 — The 5-inch lens and reflector for automotive four-lamp systems are introduced.
1964 — First production of Talaria Glass for GE’s large projection systems.
1965 — Oven covers, insulators, Show ’N Tell lens and additional photo reflectors are added.
1966 — Production of refractors (MS112-516) for roadway lighting begins.
1968 — MS147 refractor (large roadway) is added.
1975 — Development of rectangular lens and reflectors begins.
1977 — Process of upgrading presses to hydraulics begins.
1992 — Air-supported structure added to increase warehouse storage by 20,000 square feet.
1993 — Large furnace converted to Oxy/Gas firing, leading to the construction of on-site oxygen plant.
2002 — Air-supported structure replaced by permanent building.
2006 — Double Gob reflector press installed on line 3 for PAR38 reflectors.
2010 — Double Gob press installed on line 1 for PAR38 lenses.
2013 — Investment of $5 million is given to plant for tank rebuilding.