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U.S. Typewriter Maker Takes Operations to Mexico

July 22, 1992

CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) _ Smith Corona Corp., a dominant force in word processing, stunned workers and government officials Tuesday by announcing it will move manufacturing to Mexico.

Smith Corona blamed what it called predatory pricing by foreign competitors and the U.S. government’s lack of support for the decision to join the growing number of U.S. manufacturers relocating south of the border, where labor rates are much cheaper.

All Smith Corona products will now be manufactured overseas. The company also has plants in Singapore and Indonesia.

The pullout, which will begin in 60 days and take about a year to complete, will mean the loss of 775 permanent local jobs and 100 temporary positions.

″We can’t remain competitive in Cortland,″ president and chief operating officer Bill Henderson said at a news conference in the community where Smith Corona has been a business pillar for four decades. ″We tried restructuring, we tried product redesign, we tried cost-cutting, but there’s nothing more we can do.″

Workers and local politicians saw it differently.

Cortland Mayor Ronald Walsh Jr. said it was hard not to feel ″a certain sense of betrayal″ against Smith Corona.

The announcement coincided with the company’s report that earnings for the fiscal year ended June 30 jumped about 13 percent from the year before.

″The place is making money, just not as much as they want. We can’t help but feel they’re dumping on us and going somewhere for a better profit,″ said Alan Parker, a toolmaker with Smith Corona for 27 years.

But Henderson said the company’s profit margins have declined during the past four years.

Smith Corona is the largest employer in Cortland County, about 30 miles south of Syracuse. Though it is an American company, almost 48 percent of its stock is owned by Hanson PLC, a British conglomerate that once owned all of it.

The move to Mexico will let Smith Corona cut production costs by 80 percent and save $15 million annually, Henderson said.

Thompson said Smith Corona will leave 370 employees in Cortland to maintain engineering, product design, customer service and administrative support divisions.

The company said the site to which the plant will relocate in Mexico wouldn’t be announced until negotiations are completed.

Smith Corona, which began in Syracuse as L.C. Smith & Co., moved to Cortland in the early 1950s. Over its 110-year history, it outlasted other American industry leaders including Royal, Underwood and Remington.

At its peak in Cortland, in 1979, Smith Corona employed 4,200 people in the manufacture of higher priced electronic typewriters and word processors.

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