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Friday, January 21, 2000

County gets doubledose of bad job news

Brunswick to shut plant in Balmorhea

Staff Writer
BALMORHEA, Jan. 21, 2000 -- Employees at the Brunswick Roadmaster warehouse in Balmorhea are sad and depressed, after hearing the bad news that the plant will cease its maquildora plant operations in Balmorhea and Ojinaga, Mex., later this year.

The plants are being closed by the company in favor of lower-cost bicycle manufacturing operations in China.

"As soon as I received the newsletter from Brunswick Corporation, I held a meeting with all the employees and made them aware of what was going on," said Distribution Manager for the company, Armando Mondragon.

The plant employed 27 people in the Balmorhea area, and four other workers from Pecos. "We had 31 employees during the holiday, some of them were temps and we had to let them go after the holidays, since it slowed down," said Mondragon.

The company is going to be buying bicycles in China and not produce them in the United States and Mexico, according to Mondragon.

"They'll be shutting down two plants in Ojinaga, Mexico, which employs about 800 people, and if Ojinaga shuts down, we will too," he said.

The plant in Illinois, also owned by the Brunswick Corporation, will be operated until April. It will be distributing bicycles, but will not be involved in the manufacturing operations. "They have 300 and something people at that plant," said Mondragon.

The Balmorhea and Ojinaga plants were opened just five years ago, and were among of the first maquiladora plants operating in the area. West Texas Utilities, which helped attract the company to the area, said at the time Balmorhea was chosen as the site for the distribution warehouse due to its access to Interstate 10.

In Mexico, operations are expected to wind down in June and the same will be considered here, according to Mondragon. "The distribution will remain open in Fairfield, Calif., and that's going to be operated, and will be receiving bikes from China."

Mondragon was offered the opportunity to move with the company to California, but opted to turn them down. "My wife and I have a lot of friends and family here and this is where we want to live," he said. "So, I decided to pass on that, there's just too many close ties here."

Mondragon stated that the moral at the Balmorhea plant is really low right now and everyone is feeling down. "And the bad part is we still have to operate as if nothing is wrong."

"I'm just hoping all the employees will stick with me to the end. I haven't had anyone leave yet, like in Ojinaga," he said.

Some employees at the plants in Ojinaga have already quit to look for other jobs. "Some of them have already left, knowing they'll be competing for jobs," said Mondragon. "There's another plant there, Algiers and the employees are already applying there."

"The morale here is really down, but I'm hoping we can all work together until the end," he said.

Mondragon said that even though they've received bad news, they are already getting things together to move forward.

"We're getting an employee profile for any other corporation and investors, that might want to look at the facility," he said. "We want to see if any other company wants to buy the plant in both Mexico and in Balmorhea."

Mondragon stated that keeping only one of these facilities open is not feasible, which is why they would have to buy both plants. "Just keeping one of them open wouldn't work, that's why they're just keeping the facilities in Fairfield and Illinois."

The Brunswick Corporation sent out a newsletter, which said it planned simplify the business of its bicycle division. It said it would streamline its product offerings to provide for more effective supply chain management which would allow it to focus on building the Mongoose brand. As part of this new approach, the company said it is planning to cease manufacturing bicycles in North America.

Commenting on the decision, Brunswick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter N. Larson said, "Since 1997, we have aggressively marketed and expanded distribution of our Mongoose brand, leading to double-digit top-line growth for the division in each of the past three years. Over this same period, per unit manufacturing costs have been reduced by more than 30 percent. These actions were successful in building awareness, increasing market share and helping to offset the impact of continuous pricing pressures from Asian imports."

The company said that a combination of excess Asian bike manufacturing capacity and low U.S. import duties relative to other countries has made the United States an attractive market for imported bikes. In the past three years, Chinese imports alone have increased 175 percent.

"The availability of low-cost imports also affects retail prices, which have declined by more than 35 percent since 1997, with much of that decline coming in the last six months. As a result, we are no longer able to make an adequate profit manufacturing bicycles in North America," said Larson.

The company said that over the next six months it plans to phase out of manufacturing bicycles in the United States and Mexico and to source bikes from Asia. In addition the company will dispose of its wagons, sleds and bicycle parts and accessories businesses. As a result, the company will record approximately $185 million of charges related to its bicycle business.

These charges include approximately $134 million to write down the goodwill associated with the 1996 acquisition of Roadmaster as continued pricing pressure has substantially reduced the expected profitability of this business. Also included is an approximately $27 million inventory write-down resulting from the previously mentioned price declines and the effect of the planned phase out of manufacturing.

The remainder of the charge consists of asset write-downs, lease termination expense and estimated severance. Approximately $178 million of charges will be recorded in the fourth quarter of 1999, with the balance recorded in the first quarter of 2000 to coincide with the implementation of the strategic actions.

"We believe this new structure will allow us to reduce costs, to offer a more focused product line and to more effectively compete with Asian imports. Further, an orderly transition will enable us to continue to provide our customers with the biking products and service they have come to expect from Brunswick's leadership," said Larson.

The company said that its bicycle division workforce would be reduced by 80 percent. Implementation of these plans would affect approximately 750 employees at its two plants in Mexico and up to 325 employees at its plant in Olney, Ill.

Aside from its lines of bicycles, Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick also produces Zebco and Quantum fishing equipment: Igloo; American Camper and Remington camping gear; Igloo coolers and ice chests, Brunswick bowling centers, equipment and consumer products; Brunswick billiards tables; Life Fitness, Hammer Strength and ParaBody fitness equipment; Sea Ray, Bayliner and Maxum pleasure boats; Baja high-performance boats; Boston Whaler and Trophy offshore fishing boats; Mercury and Mariner outboard engines and Mercury MerCruiser sterndrives and inboard engines.

Unemployment up after mine closing

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 21, 2000 - The final shutdown of the Freeport McMoRan sulphur mine northwest of Pecos helped increase Reeves County's unemployment rate by nearly two percent in December, according to figures released today by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The county's jobless rate, which already stood at 10.5 percent in November, jumped to 12.3 percent last month, despite a drop of 100 people in the local labor force. The number of people without jobs in the county climbed from 646 to 751 at the same time most other area counties were showing jobless rates that were either lower or unchanged from November's figures.

Freeport announced in June of 1998 it would close the sulphur mine, located in northeastern Culberson County. However, work there continued at a decreased level through this past fall, when mining activity finally ended.

"That was one of the reasons," for the unemployment increase, said Joe Garcia, Workforce Development Specialist for the TWC in Pecos. "They closed Freeport down at the end of November, and that would have a little impact for the area."

He said those laid off would show up on last month's jobless figures. "We probably picked them up in December," Garcia said, while adding, "Most of the guys who have come up here are going into retraining. That's a positive output in that they're staying in the area. Hopefully, they'll be retrained in a different area."

The jobless numbers for Pecos were even worse. The city's unemployment rate went from 12 to 14 percent, the highest it's been since June, when the jobless level stood at 15.7 percent. The TWC said there were 4,808 people in Pecos' workforce, with 672 unemployed. In November, the workforce stood at 4,876, but only 584 people were without jobs.

The high unemployment rates earlier this year were due in part to the depressed oil prices that affected virtually every town in the Permian Basin. Now, with the price of oil hovering around $27 for most of December, other cities have seen their jobless rates drop back into the 5- to 7-percent range.

Ector County's December rate of 7.2 percent was down by one-tenth of a percent from November, while Midland County had a 5.2 percent jobless rate last month, down one-half percent from the previous month. Andrews County, which saw joblessness in its oil-based economy climb as high as 13.8 percent earlier this year, was at 6.6 percent last month a .6 drop from November.

Pecos County gained jobs last month, while its unemployment level dropped from 7 to 6.9 percent. Ward County's rate, which bumped up in November from 8 to 8.4 percent, was back down to 8 percent in December, and in Winkler County, where the jobless rate stood at 18.8 percent last February, unemployment was down to 7 percent in December. The county has added 100 jobs since that high point in February, while losing 340 people from its labor force.

Overall in the Permian Basin, the jobless rate stood at 6.3 percent last month. Reeves County's jobless rate was ahead of only Presidio County, where December jobless rates jumped from 26.3 to 28.6 percent. Presidio's unemployment rate dipped below 26 percent only once during 1999.


Work for county helps bid for commissioner

PECOS, Jan. 21, 2000 - Anita Baeza, who has been involved in Reeves County government for the past few years, is hoping to add to her role by seeking the nomination for Commissioner Precinct 1 in the upcoming Democratic Primary Election to be held March 14.

"Over the last three years, I have dedicated myself to serving the people of Reeves County," said Baeza. "As an Administrative Assistant in the County Judge's Office, I have met and assisted many people with a multitude of issues and concerns. My job is to help people resolve their problems."

"As your county commissioner, I will do nothing less. I will be a full-time commissioner with regular office hours and at your service seven days a week," she said.

Baeza, who is running against incumbent Felipe Arredondo and challengers Jesse Baeza and Roy Pena for the Democratic nomination, said she believes we can make Pecos and Reeves County a better place to live.

"For years, I have encouraged local officials to run for office. Now, after seeing and understanding the functions of the Commissioners Court, I know that I can be instrumental in improving the conditions of Precinct 1 and Reeves County," said Baeza.

"There are so many needs in Precinct 1, such as, housing, neighborhood parks, infrastructure, senior services, juvenile delinquency, jobs, community development, to name a few," she said. "But, the most important aspects of being a commissioner are serving your constituents and properly managing the budget of the county."

"As a former small business owner, I know what it takes to operate a business in Pecos," Baeza said. "When the economy slumps, you have to tighten your belt to make ends meet."

Over the last few years, Reeves County has made some very good investments, like the expansion of the Detention Center and the establishment of a Community Recreation Center, according to Baeza. "But, in order to maintain those investments, Reeves County must be operated as a business," said Baeza. "As a businesswoman and investor in this community, I know how to manage a budget and budget to make future investments."

"To me, serving as county commissioner is all about the future investments of our community," she said. "Pecos will become what we make it. Therefore, the future of our community is in our hands."

"If given the opportunity to serve as your county commissioner, I will support law enforcement to rid our community of drugs and drug dealers," Baeza said.

"Secondly, I will develop a plan to build a major community park on the eastside of town in Precinct 1. Thirdly, I will continue to help my constituents and people of Reeves County resolve any problems they may be encountering. And lastly, as a businesswoman and taxpayer, I will work hard to streamline county government and eliminate wasteful spending," said Baeza.

Drug task force grant on county's agenda

PECOS, Jan. 21, 2000 - A Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force Grant Application FY 2000-2001 and a cooperative agreement and resolution for the force will be topics of discussion at the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting.

The group will meet at 9:45 a.m., Monday, on the third floor of the courthouse. The public is invited to attend.

Commissioners will also discuss the purchase of a patrol car for the Reeves County Sheriff's Office; Knights of Columbus request for golf tournament approval; county on-site sewage facilities regulations amendment and Pitney Bowes Contract for the Reeves County Detention Center.

In other business, commissioners will discuss Banes General Contractors Request for Payment Number 9 for the RCDC expansion project and KTTK, Inc. Software System Contract and Frank X. Spencer and Associates request for payment Invoice No. 5.

Commissioners will also discuss and approve:

· New hires for Primary Early Voting Election FY 2000.

· Deputation and Oath for Debbie Millan.

· Reports from various departments.

· Budget amendments and line-item transfers.

· Personnel and salary changes (RCDC, Road and Bridge, Task Force, JDC).

· Minutes from previous meetings.

· Semi-monthly bills.

· Spread on Minutes: Notice of over-axle over gross weight permit and contracts for Guadalupe Regalado and Michael LeCuyer.


AUSTIN (AP) _ Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night: Winning numbers drawn: 24-25-26-34-37. Number matching five of five: 0. Matching four of five: 194. Prize: $1,040.


AUSTIN (AP) _ The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 4-4-8 (four-four-eight)


Manuel Machuca

Manuel Prieto Machuca, 89, of Balmorhea, died Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2000, at Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Midland.

A rosary will be held at 8 p.m., today at Christ the King Catholic Church in Balmorhea.

Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 22, at Christ the King Catholic Church in Balmorhea, with burial in the Saragosa Cemetery.

He was born in Candelaria, was a lifelong resident of Balmorhea, a retired farmer and a Catholic.

Survivors include two sons, Genaro Machuca of Las Cruces, N.M. and Raul Machuca of Alpine; one daughter, Evangelina Morales of Balmorhea; two brothers, Valente Machuca of Odessa, Carlos Nichols of Pecos; one sister, Consuelo Valdez of California; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Petronila Munoz

Petronila G. Munoz, 96, died Thursday, Jan. 20, 2000, at Pecos Nursing Home.

A rosary will be held at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 23, at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass is scheduled for 2 p.m., Monday, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with burial in Greenwood Cemetery.

She was born June 29, 1902, in Shafter, was a Catholic and a homemaker.

Survivors include three sons, Marcelino Munoz of Barstow, Ramon Munoz of Pecos, Isabel Munoz of Fontana, Calif.; one daughter, Tanis M. Chavez of Pacoima, Calif.; 24 grandchildren; 49 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great grandchildren.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


High Thursday 62. Low this morning 32. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low around 40. Southwest 5-15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High in the mid 70s. West wind 10-20 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Low 30-35. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High 60-65.

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Pecos Enterprise
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