Am I Next? Flow International Layoff, Moving manufacturing from Kent, WA to Baxter Springs, Kansas

Flow International, the company originated by Boeing Engineers in the 1970s to commercialize the high-pressure waterjet cutting of materials has announced that it will be laying off 110 employees as it moves its manufacturing operations from Kent, Washington to a Baxter Springs, Kansas facility owned by Flow’s parent, Shape Technologies.

This move will not affect the management, design, engineering, commercial and financial staff located in Kent. 

It appears that the decision was based on area economics, with David Savage, CEO of Shape Technologies commenting, 

“This was not an easy decision. After a great deal of consideration and analysis, we needed to make the tough choice on where our US manufacturing operations would be based on the long term. The cost of doing business in the Seattle area has changed dramatically over the last few years, and the cost of manufacturing in the region continues to climb. As we look into the future, we expect these operating challenges to continue to increase, and we are taking the step now to combine operations in order to remain competitive in our marketplace. 

“Working with our manufacturing professionals in Kent has been a privilege. Day in and out, they’ve demonstrated hard work and dedication to our customers and to Flow. We recognize their efforts, and we are doing everything we can to ensure they transition into new careers. In addition to providing three-months’ notice, we are providing severance packages to all affected employees. 

“It is important to note that this activity in no way changes how Flow serves its customers. The Flow leadership team, along with the design, engineering, commercial and financial activities of Flow will remain in Kent Washington for the long term, and we are planning investment in new facilities in Kent in 2019 to support our continued growth. 

“Again, these are never easy decisions. We are thankful for the contributions of all our affected employees and are committed to helping them transition into new careers.”

Flow competitor OMAX, the second largest waterjet machining company in the United States and founded by one of the original Flow founders, Boeing Scientist John Olsen in the 1990s, remains in Kent. The past relationship between the two companies has been relatively contentious as Flow paid OMAX approximately $35 million to settle litigation over patents and to compensate OMAX for a failed merger between the two companies.

The State of Washington is known to be a progressive state where onerous regulations are seen to be driving up the cost of doing business in the state. Seattle, where Flow was located is at the forefront of the "living wage" agenda that has raised the costs of living and decreased the number of entry-level and unskilled jobs available in the marketplace.

Are you asking yourself, Am I Next?