Mattoon’s GE Lighting plant to have its final day of production

Mattoon’s GE Lighting plant to have its final day of production

The factory will close its doors after more than 70 years of making lighting components.

General Electric Lighting is closing its 71-year-old lamp factory in Mattoon, Illinois. The plant’s final day of operation will be Friday, Aug. 11, according to the Journal Gazette-Times Courier.

Though somber, the closing is not unexpected.

GE Lighting announced in August 2016 its intention to close the Mattoon plant by August 2017, according to The Associated Press. At its zenith, the plant employed more than 1,800 workers. By the time of GE’s 2016 announcement, only 140 remained.

GE spokesperson Alicia Gauer told the Journal Gazette-Times Courier that after the closing 36 employees will stay behind for three to four months to clean, disconnect equipment, and prepare the plant for any possible future use or sale.

“Some of the equipment has been identified for use by other GE facilities and will be shipped out at the conclusion of production,” Gauer told the Journal Gazette-Times Courier. “The remaining equipment will be put up for auction before the end of the year.”

Thirty-eight percent of the current Mattoon facility’s workers are eligible for retirement benefits. The Journal Gazette-Times Courier explained that those who aren’t will still have access to a wide array of employee benefits such as severance pay, tuition reimbursement for education and retraining, and continued medical, dental and life insurance coverage for employees and their dependents. The laid-off workers will also have preferential placement at up to 12 GE facilities.

Mattoon’s latest loss of good jobs will not be easily replaced. From June 2016 to June 2017, the number of jobs in the greater Chicago area grew 1.2 percent, slightly below the national average. However, the rest of Illinois fared far worse, with only 0.2 percent jobs growth on average.

And lawmakers have only made things worse.

In July, the Illinois General Assembly passed the largest permanent income tax hike in the state’s history, increasing the individual income tax rate to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent and raising the corporate tax rate to 7 percent from 5.25 percent. This tax hike will not only take more money from hardworking Illinoisans, but it will also make Illinois even less competitive for jobs and even more difficult for existing businesses.

On top of the income and corporate tax increase, Illinois has some of the highest property taxes in the nation and the costliest workers’ compensation in the region, both of which make jobs growth even harder for the Land of Lincoln.

GE Lighting’s Mattoon plant provided well-paying jobs with benefits for generations of central Illinois residents. But now that the old factory has closed its doors, new opportunities will be even more critical for Mattoon’s future. And state lawmakers haven’t helped.

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