One of Carbon County’s largest employers is laying off 70 employees.
Kovatch Corp. in Nesquehoning announced it would cut about 15 percent of its workforce locally and in California.
The news comes three years after the company sold its principal division, Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corp., to REV Group, an Orlando, Florida-based company that owns a number of specialty vehicle manufacturers.
Since the 2016 acquisition, KME kept its name and has a manufacturing facility in Nesquehoning that employs about 500 workers.
“We were all kind of shocked at that announcement yesterday,” said Kathy Henderson, director of economic development for the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corp. “When the REV Group took over, they no longer wanted to do government contracts. They’ve been systematically downsizing.”
Founded in 1946 and headquartered in Nesquehoning, KME produces customized specialty vehicle products and markets them to fire-rescue, military, aviation and industrial customers globally. KME’s products include fire apparatus (pumpers, aerials, and tankers), rescue vehicles and fuel trucks, among others.
Henderson, who grew up in the county, said she couldn’t remember a time when KME was not here.
“There’s always been that fear that when they [REV] took over, they would just close up and leave,” Henderson said. “It’s devastating to the employees let go, it’s all trades, those types of positions.”
Brian Connely, vice president and general manager of KME, said in a statement that in order to stay competitive in an ever changing market, KME has just completed a restructuring event in which 70 employees, fewer than 15 percent of the workforce, have been separated from the company in its Nesquehoning and California facilities.
“These employees were both from our direct and indirect labor forces,” Connely said. “KME remains committed to our employees and our community. The actions that were taken will allow us to be strategic in our market as well as the ability to grow and seek future opportunities within our industry. Our order backlog and order intake remain very strong.”
Connely said KME would continue to make the necessary business decisions to ensure the future success of its employees and company, as well as its continued commitment to the entire area.