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EASTON, Md. (AP) _ Black & Decker Corp. said Tuesday it will close its Easton plant, eliminating 1,300 jobs and leaving the toolmaker with virtually no manufacturing presence in its home state.

Most of the Maryland jobs will move to Mexico; others will shift to Brazil and Fayetteville, N.C. The Towson, Md.-based company's layoffs could begin as early as January.

The plant has 750 full-time employees and 550 contract workers. It produces the company's DeWalt tools and has been in operation since 1974.

``We remain very much a U.S. company, and we would make the point that unless we make these tough decisions to stay competitive on a global basis, we would put the remaining U.S. presence at some risk,'' said Barbara Lucas, a company spokeswoman.

The company employs about 1,150 people at its headquarters and about 250 workers at a plant in Hampstead. About half of the toolmaker's nearly 23,000 employees worldwide are based in the United States.

``It's devastating to our small town here,'' Easton Mayor C. Eugene Butler said. ``I'm not really surprised, but it came upon us very suddenly.''

Tuesday's announcement also came as a surprise to state officials, who had been meeting with the company to discuss the Easton facility.

The company announced in January that it would spend $190 million to restructure and move manufacturing from higher-cost plants in the United States and United Kingdom to lower-cost facilities in Mexico, China and the Czech Republic, and announced plans to cut 2,400 jobs.

Black & Decker said Tuesday that once restructuring is complete, probably in 2004, the company will save more than $100 million annually.