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MD says jobs move to China 'came as shock'.

Byline: Peter McCusker

DURHAM electrical component maker Mechetronics is closing its factory at the end of the month bringing to an end over 60 years of manufacturing in the county after its new US owners opted to shift production to China.

The company formerly known as Westool was established in St Helen Auckland in 1946 and in its heyday it employed over 1,000 people producing solenoids for a variety of industrial applications.

In 2003 it moved to new 27,500 sq ft premises in nearby Bishop Auckland but this will close in the coming weeks.

The company was bought by US-based solenoid designer and manufacturer Curtiss-Wright in October last year for around pounds 2m and it has opted to shift production to China leading to the loss of over 40 North East jobs.

Dianne Sharp, managing director of Mechetronics, which last year recorded a turnover of pounds 8m, said: "The factory will close at the end of the month. The business is a victim of the global downturn which has affected demand. The decision came as a shock. When the business was taken over there was no intention to close down this facility.

"It's very disappointing for all of the staff and brings to an end over 60 years of history in the area, but we are victims of the global economic downturn."

The factory currently makes one million solenoids a year and this production will be shifted to a sister plant in Zhuhai, China, which was opened two years ago.

It is a world leader in the making of solenoids - electro-magnetic devices found in a wide range of products from drinks and cash dispensers to lorry air-brakes - and clients have included Hewlett Packard, Mars and Jaguar. Fifteen years ago the factory employed 400 but the workforce has been streamlined over recent years with improvements in productivity and increased mechanisation. At the time of the acquisition Curtiss-Wright said: "The addition of Mechetronics expands Curtiss-Wright's leadership in the supply of solenoid design and manufacturing.

"Mechetronics brings extensive experience in the design of industrial solenoids, including manufacturing in China and complements our aerospace and defence solenoid business in North America and Europe."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Sep 11, 2009
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