Northrop Grumman Corp. said Monday that it will move 850 jobs off Long Island by next year, leaving just 550 workers out of a workforce that exceeded 25,000 in the 1980s.
The jobs are going to Florida and California in the latest cost-saving consolidation of functions by the aerospace company. It's acting in the face of steadily declining Pentagon budgets, including those in the current automatic spending cuts known as the sequestration.
An unknown number of the 850 workers will be offered transfers, company spokesman Randy Belote said. The consolidation is expected to be completed sometime next year.
The Island's military industry, once a linchpin of the region's economy, has steadily lost jobs since the 1980s, when it employed as many as 80,000 people during a buildup by the Reagan administration. That number was down to 31,000 in 2006.
Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, said the almost complete loss of Grumman hurts one of the Island's iconic industries.
"Its terrible to lose any more jobs in a heritage industry, just as it would be for commercial fisheries or the agricultural field," he said.
The Long Island economy, which has struggled to hit its stride following the recession, suffered another blow when superstorm Sandy devastated numerous shore communities, and knocked out power to about 90 percent of the Long Island Power Authority's 1.1 million customers.
The loss of 850 jobs, the largest single hit in recent memory, provides another shock.
The manned aircraft design work now being done by Northrop Grumman in Bethpage will be consolidated at what the company called a "center of excellence" in Melbourne, Fla. That includes design of the new E-2D Hawkeye Navy surveillance aircraft, as well as the designs of upgrades to earlier E-2 versions, Belote said. Grumman no longer builds any airplanes on Long Island.
The company said an Electronic Attack Center of Excellence, to focus on technologies such as radar jamming and cybersecurity, will be located in Bethpage. It will initially have the 550 workers but could potentially grow if more work comes its way. "The technology in this area has really increased," Belote said.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said, "Since Grumman eliminated 20,000 jobs in Bethpage in the 1990s, I've worked to return over 15,000 jobs to the former defense property, including those in homeland security, motion picture, communications and high tech industries. While I am disappointed in their plans to reduce their Long Island workforce, I remain optimistic that Northrop's plans to create an Electronic Attack Center of Excellence in Bethpage will compliment our growth in homeland security. Nassau's economy was clearly strengthened by the dozens of companies that now call Bethpage home rather than relying on a single employer."
Wes Bush, chairman, chief executive and president of Falls Church, Va.-based Northrop Grumman, said in a statement, "Given the current budget environment, it is imperative that we act to enhance future performance, innovation and affordability for our customers."
The company, which has shrunk by 17 percent in three years to 70,000 employees worldwide, also said it would close facilities in Norwalk, Conn., and Dominguez Hills, Calif.
Law said, "The fact that there's going to continue to be a center of excellence in Bethpage is good news and something we need to capitalize on in terms of new industries."
Pearl Kamer, the association's economist, notes that, while jobs in the industry tend to be high-paying, the aerospace and defense sector is a small percentage of Long Island's total 1.3 million public and private employment.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, said through a spokeswoman, "I am very frustrated that the company has made a decision to move jobs out of New York. I believe that Long Island has the workforce, academic and research assets, and local support that would have allowed Northrop Grumman to grow centers of excellence right here in Bethpage."
Founded by LeRoy Grumman in 1929 as an independent company, Grumman was the Island's leading aerospace and defense company for decades, and for many years Long Island's largest private employer. At Bethpage and in Calverton, it produced generations of fighters, bombers, surveillance and electronic warfare aircraft for the Navy.
Years before it was acquired by Northrop in 1994, it also produced the Lunar Module on Long Island that landed astronauts on the moon during NASA's Apollo program in 1960s and 1970s.
1940s: Grumman builds the Wildcat and Hellcat fighter planes and the Avenger attack plane, helping turn the tide of World War II. Entered the 1940s with 2,000 employees, grew to 22,100, and in 1945 was cut to 3,400.
1960s: Under a contract with National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Grumman develops the lunar module at Bethpage. The project involved 9,000 employees.
1970s: Grumman manufactures wing structures for the Space Shuttle and F-14A Naval fighter planes.
1980s: Production of F-14 Super Tomcat planes began. The workforce ranged from 23,000 to 25,000.