‘A terrible loss of jobs’: Mitsubishi Hitachi manufacturing division shuts down, plant for sale
Posted on October 18, 2016 in In the Media
Three months after announcing plans to shutter its Saskatoon manufacturing division and lay off about 150 people, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Canada Ltd. (MHSPCA) has ceased operations and put its sprawling north end plant up for sale.
“It’s a terrible loss of jobs — good-paying jobs with a high degree of capability and expertise that are no longer going to be filled in that facility,” said Keith Moen, executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association.
“And those that are unemployed ar,e in all likelihood, because of the depressed economy that we’re experiencing here, going to be looking elsewhere for employment opportunities, (likely) out of the province.”
MHSPCA said in July that streamlining its operations was “fundamental to realizing costs synergies” following the massive 2014 merger that created its parent company, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. (MHPS).
That streamlining would result in its manufacturing division shutting down on Oct. 15, resulting in about 150 layoffs, while its power division — which employs about 40 people — will continue operating in Saskatoon, the company said.
After learning that the plant’s manufacturing division was shutting down, one of the affected employees said in a now-deleted Facebook post that employees “saw it coming but didn’t know how bad it was going to be.”
“They are closing the doors on my shop. I am employed until October 15, after that they are putting the chains on the gates and I will have to find work elsewhere,” the employee said in the post.
On Monday, MHPS vice president of North American manufacturing Sam Suttle confirmed that manufacturing employees completed the factory backlog and subsequently ceased operations.
MHSPCA, which makes heavy equipment used in the power, energy and industrial sectors, opened its Saskatoon plant in 1988 with about 30 employees. By 2005, the facility had grown to cover 210,000 square feet and employ about 300 people.
Moen said it was “quite a coup” for a global company to build a major manufacturing facility in Saskatoon, and that its willingness to invest in the city was important to and a source of pride for the business community.
An MHPS spokeswoman said in August that the company was “exploring the different options regarding the future of the facility in Saskatoon.” The 21-acre complex is now on the market, with a list price of $19.95 million.
Michael Bratvold, vice president of the commercial real estate firm CBRE Ltd., which is selling the plant on behalf of MHPSCA, said there has been a lot of interest in the plant, and he is optimistic he can finalize a sale.
“Our goal is try and secure an end user who can take full advantage not just of the scope of the asset, but also the utility of the asset,” Bratvold said, noting the facility comes with specialized manufacturing equipment.
Moen said current economic conditions — which have led companies across the province to cut costs and lay off staff — mean it will be difficult to find a buyer prepared to take over such a massive facility, at least in the short term.
“Having said that, the big thinkers always view downturns as opportunities, right? There might be someone out there who’s ready and waiting for this type of opportunity to arrive.”