Factory closing to cost 200 jobs in Joliet

Factory closing to cost 200 jobs in Joliet

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(Kathy Knapp) (Kathy Knapp)
JOLIET, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Wireless communications equipment maker CommScope said Wednesday it will cease manufacturing operations in Joliet, a move that will cut 200 jobs and end a decadeslong history of manufacturing that began in Orland Park, the SouthtownStar is reporting.

CommScope said that changes in how wireless cell towers are being built are prompting the move, reducing demand for coaxial cable and related products made at the factory, in the Cherry Hill Business Park north of Interstate 80 and west of Gougar Road. Much of the business park is in New Lenox.

Another 300 people at the facility who work in areas such as information technology, marketing and customer service are not affected, nor are a small number of CommScope employees based in Westchester, according to Bill Walter, a company spokesman.

Affected employees would be eligible for severance, and the company will offer workers help in finding new jobs, he said.

Andrew Corp., which was bought in late 2007 by CommScope for $2.6 billion, opened the 690,000-square-foot Joliet plant that same year. Also in 2007, Andrew closed its Orland Park factory, which began making cable and other communications equipment in the early 1950s, and had relocated administrative functions to Westchester in 2006.

Before picking the Joliet site, Andrew had considered other locations for the new factory, including one near I-80 in Orland Park as well as property in Matteson, Mokena and Tinley Park.

Andrew's vacant 600,000-square-foot office and manufacturing complex in Orland Park, 10500 W. 153rd St., is being demolished, and CommScope is in the process of cleaning up industrial pollutants on the property.

North Carolina-based CommScope said the shutdown of manufacturing in Joliet will be done in phases but should be completed within nine months.

The company said that wireless network operators are more often deploying remote radio units near the tops of cell towers rather than at the base. This design has meant a shift away from the coaxial cable made in Joliet to the use of fiber optic cable, CommScope said.

That type of cable, as well as coaxial cable, are made at two CommScope plants located near Charlotte, N.C., the company said.

"The company believes that it must utilize manufacturing resources as efficiently as possible to preserve its competitive standing," CommScope said in a statement.

Edward "Andy" Andrew Jr., whose grandparents, Victor and Aileen, founded Andrew Corp., said he was "not shocked" by Wednesday's announcement.

"I feel sorry for all those people," said Andrew, who worked for the company for 30 years. "It's a sad day, another tough chapter."

It was unclear what will happen with the production equipment at the Joliet plant, some of which was relocated from Andrew's Orland Park factory. CommScope doesn't own the building but is leasing from Northern Builders, developer of Cherry Hill.

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