Westinghouse shutdown to cost 300 Cranberry jobs

Michael Fricke, Editor-in-Chief (FHS-Press.com)

Local and global nuclear giant Westinghouse, who pioneered a new charge toward the development of nuclear energy, recently filed for bankruptcy protection. The preposition of a possible shutdown has nuclear energy proponents shaking, and the potential job loss is projected to have a great effect on Cranberry Township.

Parent company Toshiba, which currently resides in Japan, blamed its most recent economic disaster on a series of troubled projects in the American South. These projects came in over time and over budget, partially due to new implemented regulations during the power plant’s construction. What once started out as a shred of light for the genesis of a new nuclear technology boom now has investors worried that the projects will never be completed.

The most damaging problems could be considered self inflicted. Toshiba has been publicly criticized for overpaying for Westinghouse, a raw deal that has yielded nothing but economic downturn.
Much of the injury, however, is beyond the company’s control. The slow decline of gas prices, coupled with the maturing and far more cost effective renewable resources such as wind and solar, have put nuclear power far from the minds of investors and the public alike. Nuclear power is expensive, technologically challenging and potentially dangerous. These are more than enough reasons for investors to be cautious.

The filing for bankruptcy comes at the cost of countless jobs. Across seas, Westinghouse’s nuclear footprint is already being reduced. Reactors in Japan have been put in jeopardy by the bankruptcy, despite nuclear power being a well nurtured industry.

In an effort to reduce damage, Westinghouse has stated the potential option of selling all or part of the company to a competitor. This task has become increasingly difficult with the messy construction projects, and the list of buyers only dwindles. Potential companies in China have aired their interest, noticing the opportunity for export.

But what about here in Cranberry? Despite the global ramifications, the loss of Westinghouse’s headquarters on a local level could leave the township reeling.

“Bankruptcy protection is the first step. I’m sure we can expect some loss of jobs, but I don’t expect it to leave completely… where we go from here remains to be seen,” Pennsylvania state representative Rob Matzie said.

As Cranberry’s largest employer, the company holds 2,200 full time staff, nearly half of all of western Pennsylvania’s workforce. With just 300 employees in the Cranberry area alone, the shutdown could leave local families hurting. With a $10 million bill to pay, Toshiba may be forced to put many out of work.

“It would be a big hit to the economy. It would be devastating,” Matzie said.

According to Cranberry Patch, Township Manager Jerry Andree downplayed the potential impact on Cranberry.

“The business decision recently announced by the Westinghouse Electric Company was not an unexpected step as they address their financial challenge,” he said. “Westinghouse has a long history of successfully managing the challenges of the industries they serve. They are a resilient company with many talented employees serving a global demand for their expertise. There is every reason to believe they will overcome this current challenge and continue to be a leader in their field.”