Local

Loss of Army contract could kill plant

Monday, November 23, 2009

It would mean the loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars. A company in Sealy that makes armored trucks could soon lose its contract with the Army. BAE Systems has brought millions of dollars to the local economy, and some fear if it's gone it would forever change the entire town of Sealy.

An armored vehicle completely assembled  it's a daily accomplishment that makes Harold Reibenstein proud. He's been working at the plant 18 years and for the first time his future at BAE Systems is in jeopardy.

"I've devoted my soul to this," Reibenstein said. "It's provided me a good life for my family and it would be very devastating to have go out and find another job, especially in today's market."

BAE Systems' 200 acre campus in Sealy builds military armored trucks and trailers. They carry everything from troops to cargo to weapons. They are used by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Troops on the ground love these trucks," said a supporter. "They protected American lives."

State lawmakers and local business leaders protested the loss of the Army contract that keeps BAE open. The nearly $2 billion contract was awarded to Oshkosh Corporation in Wisconsin. Local leaders claim the bidding process was flawed and have appealed the Army's decision. BAE Systems say they alone own the design to the specially armored cab and a new design by a new company would mean cost overruns.

BAE President Dennis Morris explained, "The military is going to have to test it, spend money to test it evaluate it and qualify it, to make sure that it meets the specifications."

Neighbors in Sealy worry the local economy will take a severe hit if 3,000 jobs are lost. Tony's Restaurant would lose business, as well as other local companies.

"We have a small garbage company that picks up outside the city limits," said Ken Shaffer with A and K Waste Removal. "Half those people are our customers, so with all those people being unemployed, that's going to affect us as well in our company."

"Financially ... to make what I'm making now, I would have to take two to three jobs," said BAE employee Liz Schoppe.

The stakes are high for employees at BAE, especially for those who live in the area. This is under appeal. The government is expected to have their decision on that appeal by December 14.

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Tags:
sealy, army, local, cynthia cisneros
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