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THE AEROSPACE CRISIS : THE COMMUNITIES : Layoffs Come Home to the Valley

March 17, 1992|PATRICE APODACA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the San Fernando Valley's heavy reliance on aerospace employment, it comes as little surprise to find Valley communities at the top of the list of those hardest hit by the industry's decline.

According to a study prepared for the Los Angeles County Aerospace Task Force, the West San Fernando Valley community of Canoga Park has the largest share of unemployed aerospace workers of any area in Los Angeles County.

Over the year ending last June, 10% of the county's unemployed aerospace workers lived in Canoga Park, the study says. Those displaced workers represented 15% of all the unemployed people in Canoga Park, the report said.

Other communities throughout Los Angeles County--including Torrance, West Covina and Pomona--were singled out by the new study as suffering high levels of aerospace-related joblessness. And others in the San Fernando Valley region--notably Glendale, Lancaster and North Hollywood--were near the top of list.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 20, 1992 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Column 5 Financial Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Rocketdyne--A story in Tuesday's editions misstated employment levels at Rockwell International Corp.'s Rocketdyne division in Canoga Park. Actual employment levels at Rocketdyne's various units declined to 7,550 this month from 8,300 a year ago.

But Canoga Park was by far the hardest hit. According to the study, the number of displacedaerospace workers who live in Canoga Park surged from 206 in 1988 to 796 in 1991.

Even so, local business people say that Canoga Park is holding up relatively well under the strain because of worker retraining, a diversified local economy and the prevalence of two-income households.

Indeed, the findings surprised some residents because Canoga Park's two largest aerospace companies--Rockwell International Corp.'s Rocketdyne division and Hughes Aircraft's missile systems group--have had relatively few layoffs in the past year.

Employment at Rocketdyne's various units, most of which are located in the West San Fernando Valley, has dropped from 83,000 in March, 1991, to 75,500 this month. And the number of workers at Hughes' Canoga Park facility declined from 2,197 in December, 1990, to 2,046 at the end of February.

But Daniel Flaming, one of the authors of the study, said many of the unemployed are from small electronics companies that supply the larger aerospace concerns. The biggest share were electronics assemblers--the very workers with the poorest prospects of finding work elsewhere, Flaming said.

In Canoga Park and surrounding communities--the immediate area has a 1990 population of 150,541--the aerospace cutbacks have had a ripple effect into many parts of the local economy, business people say.

John Rooney, director of the Valley Economic Development Center, a nonprofit consulting group in Van Nuys, said aerospace cutbacks have had a "tremendous impact" on other local businesses, from accounting firms to machine shops.

At the Red Onion restaurant in Woodland Hills, which borders Canoga Park, business is off 25%, said Jeff Harrelson, the general manager. Down the street at Weilers Deli Restaurant in Canoga Park, owner Simon Mesriani said business is down 10%. When there are aerospace industry layoffs, he said, "we have to absorb the shocks."

Nonetheless, many local businesses remain upbeat about the impact of aerospace industry industry retrenchment on the local community.

"By and large, the aerospace industry here will probably see a phase of realignment," said Woodland Hills realtor James R. Gary. "But the high-tech jobs will remain here."

Local charities are feeling the pinch, however. Beth McCauley, a senior campaign associate at United Way, said that overall contributions from individuals in the aerospace industry have fallen dramatically as workers were laid off or moved out of the area.

* MAIN STORY: A1

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