“We have a number of people here who are close to retirement or eligible for retirement,” Bennett said.
Dean Ross, who has worked at Philips for 26 years, said Thursday he is not optimistic about finding work locally anytime soon.
“It’s just disgusting. You spend all this time and get within five years of retirement, and then they’re gone,” Ross said. “I doubt there will be anything around here. It’s just not looking good for Danville factories these days.”
Charlie Cox, spokesman for the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, declined to comment about Philips’ status until after the company releases a statement.
When a reporter attempted to get information from company officials at the Danville plant Thursday afternoon, he was ordered off the property.
“There are no statements,” a company representative said.
Philips Lighting purchased the Danville facility from Corning Glass in the mid 1980s, Bennett said. Corning had a workforce of several hundred in the 1960s and 1970s, he said. Ross said as many as 400 people worked for Philips during his tenure there.
The company’s workforce had been steadily declining in recent years as the lighting components made at the Danville facility have been phased out or moved to other Philips plants, Bennett said.
The company used to make a variety of components for products such as light bulbs florescent tubes and neon lighting, but currently is only making reflectors and lenses for spotlights. New standards for energy-efficient incandescent light bulbs caused the company to recently phase out that operation from the Danville facility, Bennett said.
The glass division is only a small part of Philips’ overall product line. The company makes a variety of electronics and medical equipment, Bennett said.
Philips operates on 12-hour swing shifts. Night shift employees were given Thursday’s shift off with pay so they could digest the news, Bennett said. Workers are on the job this morning under difficult circumstances, he said.
“I’ve asked everyone to continue to work and make the best products we can,” Bennett said from inside the plant this morning. “Everyone has remained civil. There’s a lot of disappointment and a lot of talk going on about their futures.”