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O.C. Firm Draws Fire Over Possible Boeing Contract : Labor: Critics question the consideration of company that would make insulation for the aircraft builder in Mexico.


SANTA ANA — A small maker of aircraft insulation is a finalist to land a major contract from Boeing Co., but that prospect has stirred up controversy because the Santa Ana company makes those products in Mexicali, Mexico.

Seattle-based Boeing confirmed Thursday that Mexmil Inc. is a candidate to take over production of airplane insulation from a Boeing plant in the Seattle area. The aerospace giant plans to close its insulation plant in Tukwila, Wash., by March, 1997.

Though several other companies are also on Boeing's short list, Mexmil figures to have a good shot at winning the contract because it has been providing insulation for Boeing's 757 airplane since mid-1993. Mexmil is Boeing's only outside supplier of insulation, said Mary Hanson, a Boeing spokeswoman.

Hanson said she did not know when Boeing would make a decision on the contract award, which reportedly would be worth millions of dollars.

At the moment, 184 workers at Boeing's insulation facility annually produce about 500,000 fiberglass and cloth blankets, which are used to insulate airplane cabins.

Although Boeing says it hopes not to lay off any workers, the International Assn. of Machinists union has criticized the company for considering a transfer of work to Mexico, accusing Boeing of trying to take advantage of cheap labor there and the relaxed tariffs after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Boeing's Hanson denied that NAFTA had anything to do with the decision to shut down the Tukwila plant. "This is a product we cannot make in a cost-efficient manner in-house," she said.

Mexmil's owner, Carol Molus, was unavailable for comment. But her husband, Michael Molus, who is a consultant to Mexmil, said from his home in San Clemente that Mexmil's current contract to produce insulation for Boeing's 757 airplane expires at the end of the year.

He said Mexmil, which has been in business for 17 years, also makes insulation for McDonnell Douglas. Molus declined to comment further.

Industry sources said the company's annual revenue is about $4 million and that it has about 150 employees.

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