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Hughes Scraps Plans to Move Unit to Arizona : Industry: About 1,000 workers will remain in Fullerton while hundreds will work in El Segundo and Long Beach.

November 12, 1994|ROSS KERBER and HOPE HAMASHIGE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FULLERTON — Hughes Aircraft, releasing further details about the closing of its local electronics manufacturing operations, revealed Friday that it has abandoned its initial plan to move a major division and 350 workers to Tucson.

Hughes spokesman Dan Reeder said the company decided against moving the naval weapon systems division to Arizona because that would have made its work harder to coordinate with Hughes' other Navy contracts, now handled in Long Beach and San Diego.

Employees of the unit expressed relief on learning that their jobs will stay in the area.

"It will be a long commute," said Allison Lengele, who works as a contracts manager for the group and will be transferred to Long Beach. "But when you have been hearing Tucson for so long, any place in California sounds good."

The announcement also ended weeks of unsettling speculation among employees about their fate. "We heard last week that they were considering putting us in Canoga Park," Lengele said. "I am just glad the waiting game is over."

Hughes announced in September that it would close most of the Fullerton plant, lay off 800 to 1,000 of its 6,800 employees and sell most of the 350-acre site, considered prime residential real estate.

The company confirmed Friday that it will keep 1,000 employees in Fullerton at the information systems division, which develops software. The rest of the 5,800 employees were notified in a newsletter distributed Friday morning where their jobs will be transferred.

The radar and communications units and their 800 workers will move to Hughes' El Segundo facility, the company said. The weapons systems division will be shifted to Long Beach, affecting about 400 people; the manufacturing division, with almost 800 workers, will be split among El Segundo, Long Beach and a Hughes plant in Forest, Miss.

The remaining 2,800 workers will be transferred to other Hughes facilities across Southern California. Hughes also confirmed that it will move about 100 senior managers and support staff companywide to Washington, where other Hughes divisions have offices.

The fact that most of the remaining jobs are staying in Southern California was one bright spot in an otherwise hard-luck economic story.

"Moving a job to Long Beach and El Segundo just means a longer commute for a lot of people who could now keep a home in Orange County," said Esmael Adibi, an economist at Chapman University in Orange. "It will show up in the county's payroll employment, but it's not as much of an income loss as it would have been for the region."

The transfers announced Friday represented the culmination of plans drafted early this year when Hughes announced that it would merge its aerospace, defense, missile and systems groups. The consolidation reflected continuing efforts by Hughes, a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., to streamline its business in the wake of post-Cold War defense cuts.

The campus-style Hughes facility, built 37 years ago in the hills of Fullerton, employed 15,000 workers at its peak in the mid-1980s.

Times staff writer Don Lee contributed to this report.

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