Lockheed Martin has decided to preserve 100 more jobs than expected out of the 1,000 jobs affected by the closing of the company's Eagan plant. The defense contractor announced in November that it's shutting down the facility by 2013.
The plant closing and elimination of 1,000 jobs is one of Minnesota's largest mass layoffs in the past decade.
One of the few bright spots in Lockheed Martin's news Thursday is that fewer workers than expected received a pink slip.
Lockheed is cutting 250 jobs altogether, down from the original 350 anticipated. Another 750 workers will have an opportunity to transfer to jobs in other states.
Company spokeswoman Peggy Mullikin says the company is asking workers to give preliminary notice at the end of January as to whether they will take the transfer.
Mullikin says each employee who rejects a transfer creates an opportunity for someone being laid off to find a new job with the company, even if it's one that's moving out of state.
"Those people whose positions are not transferring always have the opportunity to look elsewhere in Lockheed Martin," she said.
Mullikin says the first group of employee transfers is expected to happen within six months. That group will involve about 380 people working on aviation and avionics products. The majority of them will leave in June.
"The groups that work on our P3 aircraft, and the workers that work on our Desert Hawk unmanned vehicle systems -- they're the first group that's leaving," said Mulliken. "Everyone that works in our aviation/avionics products will go to Owego, New York."
The other transfer cites are Manassas, Virginia and San Diego, California. Some transfers won't take place until the end of this year or early 2012.
The 250 workers who got pink slips Thursday will have their positions phased out over the course of the two-year closure.
With 1,000 jobs disappearing -- either by layoff or transfer -- the Lockheed Martin Eagan plant closing is one of the 10 largest job losses Minnesota has seen over the last decade.
"That includes some big events associated with the airline industry following 9/11, and other changes in that industry, and others in areas like mining, that have struggled," said Steve Hine, state labor market analyst. "It's certainly a big event in terms of the number of layoffs."
Hine says the departure of 1,000 Lockheed Martin workers won't do anything too dramatic to the state's overall job numbers. But he says such a loss does exert drag on the momentum of the job recovery. And it may crimp the tax base in Eagan. However, Lockheed will continue to pay property taxes unless it finds someone else to buy the building.
Hine is somewhat optimistic about the fate of the 250 workers who are not being transferred elsewhere.
"They're high-skilled individuals with relatively marketable skills and credentials," said Hine. "So I wouldn't anticipate the same difficulty that a person that gets laid off from a low-skilled job would have in finding re-employment."
City officials have toured the facility and are discussing what it could be used for in the future. Lockheed has the fourth largest workforce in Eagan.
"Hopefully they still keep coming back, even if they do lose their job over there," said Randy Cooper, co-owner of a restaurant and bar called Wild Cats just across the street from the Lockheed Martin plant.
Cooper says he and his partner bought the bar just two weeks before the Lockheed Martin plant shutdown was announced in November. He hopes another company might consider taking over the facility.
"Maybe they can replace it with something else, and keep everything good here in Eagan," Cooper said.
A couple doors down at Tip Top Nails, a nail salon, owner Dean Hoang says the departure of 1,000 workers from the area is going to have a big impact on businesses like his, too, and he's not sure how he'll adjust.
"I think we'll just really have to wing it, and more advertisements, but the community knows where we're at," said Hong. "There's just a loss over there that's not going to come over here."
But Hoang also feels badly for the workers, including those who are getting transferred. He says one of his regular clients, a Lockheed Martin employee, is worried about her future.
"I don't know what she's going to do, because both the husband and herself are working over there," said Hoang. "You just can't move away, you got your homes and the community you live in. You can't just pack up your stuff and go."
And Hoang notes, selling a home in this real estate environment in order to take a job somewhere else is not going to be easy.