Rockwell International will close its Collins Defense Communications operations in Santa Ana by the end of September, eliminating 534 jobs, company officials announced Tuesday.
The Rockwell subsidiary will transfer the Santa Ana operations to Collins' plants in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Dallas as part of an effort to consolidate operations and reduce costs. A Collins spokesman said the move was prompted, in part, by anticipated cuts in Pentagon budgets during the next several years.
"We're trying to remain as competitive as we have been in the face of a defense electronics cycle that probably won't have the growth it has had in recent years," said E. Scott Wood, a Collins spokesman.
A spokeswoman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2125, which represents 85 Collins' workers in Santa Ana, said technical problems on some of the defense electronics projects also played a part in the decision.
"They were having technical problems with some of the projects," said Jan Newman, IBEW business manager. "They were over budget on several of the projects and untimely on some projects."
Collins officials said an unspecified number of Santa Ana workers will be offered jobs in Iowa and Texas. The company has a "career continuation program" to assist employees in finding jobs at other Rockwell plants in California or, if necessary, with outside employers.
Newman said Collins has told the union that 15 to 20 of its members may be hired at Rockwell's Newport Beach-based semiconductor division. About 15 other union members have "bumping" rights that enable them to replace union members with less seniority at other Rockwell sites.
Employment peaked at about 600 a year ago at the Santa Ana operation, Wood said.
The Santa Ana operation performs engineering work and limited production of high-security communications equipment under classified federal government contracts. It also produces satellite communications terminals for the Air Force.
"We haven't lost any contracts in those areas that would generate this move," Wood said. "It's just part of an overall direction in how we want to structure the division to be competitive in future years."
Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, the Collins division employs 6,000 people in the United States and Canada. Other facilities are in Salt Lake City, Shreveport, La., and Toronto.
In 1985, El Segundo-based Rockwell invested $11 million to install a highly automated factory line at its Cedar Rapids operation. Wood said the Iowa plant is among the most modern defense electronics factories in the country and that some of the Santa Ana operations will be moved to that plant.