MANATEE -- Gyrocam's Manatee plant is being closed by parent company Lockheed Martin, which is shifting production of its tactical camera systems to facilities in Orlando and Ocala and eliminating an estimated 35 jobs.
The south Manatee company, purchased by Lockheed Martin in 2009, is closing its 40,000-square-foot 16th Street East facility March 15, according to Lockheed Martin spokesperson Melissa Hilliard.
"About 20 people have been offered and have accepted a move to Orlando or Ocala," Hilliard said. The company notified the state that about 57 employees could be affected by the closing.
"Our lease is expiring on March 31 and we have capacity at our other facilities," Hilliard said. "It's just the right time."
The company provides camera systems for vehicles used by the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. The cameras use a combination of color, night-vision and thermal sensor to spot enemy threats, including buried land mines.
Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of Manatee Economic Development Corp., called the decision "disappointing."
"This is one of those decisions that was not made at the local level," she said.
Manatee County will have only seven defense contractors left once Gyrocam closes; one of the seven remaining, Pierce Manufacturing, recently announced it will lay off 236 workers after deciding to end its ambulance division under production in Manatee.
Hillstrom said defense contractors are needed here and the EDC would like to see their numbers grow.
"It is a sector that has promise," Hillstrom said. "There is potential for growth."
Affected Gyrocam employees are being given severance packages and helped with outplacement services, Hilliard said. Some of the estimated 35 people will be able to apply for other positions within the company.
Last year, Gyrocam received a $333 million contract with the U.S. Army to provide replacement parts for its tactical camera systems on armored vehicles.
Hilliard said work for the project, with an expected completion date of 2015, will be completed in Orlando and Ocala.
"The work will be integrated into existing production lines at other facilities," she said. "Because of the flexibility of our operations, we are able to take the production and work on multiple programs at one time."
The Orlando facility, which employs 4,000, handles production, program management and engineering. The Ocala facility, which employs 850, is strictly production.
Gyrocam is part of Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control division, one of five business areas for the mega corporation. The division, which designs, develops and manufactures aerospace and defense systems, has major facilities in Orlando and Dallas.