SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Nearly 100 of the 131 employees are facing layoffs at Kobelco Construction in Spartanburg County.
The company makes excavators to help with construction projects, but it is suspending production while looking for a company to supply the engines that meet EPA air requirements.
Sales for Kobelco are solid, and orders are consistently coming in, Kobelco officials told 7 News.
“Kobelco Japan made a decision to run out of current engines we have on site and will suspend production until the engine issue has been resolved,” Kobelco General Manager Ralph Wabnitz said.
The parent company is looking for a new supplier to build an engine that meets EPA requirements. The current supplier now makes an updated diesel engine, and it has changed the configuration of its production line to manufacture that new engine.
The new engine has not been able to meet the EPA air requirements.
Kobelco invested $41 million into the Spartanburg area, so Spartanburg County officials are now working hard to the save jobs. County officials have even reached out to elected officials in Washington, D.C. for help.
“We are turning every stone over and we are putting every ounce of energy into getting this done. I’ve got great hope in Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Jim Clyburn and that team,” Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt said.
The parent company, which is based in Japan, has been making excavators since 1932. The company now manufactures seven different models, and local management is hopeful that this shut down will only be temporary.
“As you can imagine, this is a very difficult situation for us,” Wabnitz said.
Many employees will either get severance packages or help finding new employment. While the search continues for new suppliers, the growth in Spartanburg will continue at a record pace.
“Right now before council, I’ve got 10 projects that are pending, that are in council, that are in process, that add another $550 million and another 500 to 600 jobs,” Councilman Britt said.
Kobelco’s Spartanburg plant is the company’s only manufacturing plant in North America. It produces excavators for the U.S. and Canada.
May 1 will be the last day those 99 employees will work at the Spartanburg plant.