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Fort Wayne defense contractor eliminating 360 jobs

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Harris Corporation announced Wednesday that it will be eliminating 360 jobs from its Fort Wayne facility starting in the fall of this year with the transition expected to be completed by mid-summer 2016. The plant, located at Cook and Innovation on the northwest side of town, makes SINCGARS communication radios used by the military which have been manufactured in Fort Wayne since 1988.

“There’s a long history of the radios here in Fort Wayne, so that’s obviously something we don’t like to see,” Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Executive Vice President John Urbahns said.

The decision to eliminate the jobs comes about a month after the Harris Corporation bought Exelis for more than $4 billion. There are currently about 900 people employed by Harris in Fort Wayne.

“Anytime there is a change at the company level with companies being bought and sold there is going to be changes and that’s what we’re seeing here,” Urbahns said.

The work is being moved to a Harris facility in Rochester, New York. Urbahns said he didn’t have a chance to fight for the jobs.

“When a company is looking to move jobs, typically we have the opportunity to be at the table and make a pitch on why to keep them here, have the opportunity to respond in that manner and in this case we didn’t have that opportunity,” Urbahns said.

Some affected employees will be offered transfer opportunities or the option to other jobs within the company according to Tim White, Harris Corporation Director of Communications. White told NewsChannel 15 that the Rochester plant is “best in class” and has the ability to absorb the production of the radios currently being built in Fort Wayne.

The announcement only affects the Harris communications division in Fort Wayne. The geospatial unit will not be impacted. Urbahns said his focus will be on how to help that industry grow.

“How do we utilize the talent that’s being left here,” Urbahns said. “There’s a lot of intellectual capacity in the employees that are there, how do we market that to new companies to locate here or grow additional businesses that are already here in town.”

Before Exelis ran the plant, it was owned by ITT and over the years hundreds of thousands of SINCGARS radios have been manufactured in Fort Wayne for all branches of the U.S. military and many allies of the United States.