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Aerial Lift Truck Maker Cutting 125 Jobs At Kansas Plant

Snorkel International said layoffs are due to increased construction costs that have postponed some projects and forced contractors to cut back on buying the company's equipment.

ELWOOD, Kan. (AP) -- Snorkel International plans to lay off 125 workers from its manufacturing plant here, which makes aerial lift trucks.

Dan Jenkins, spokesman for Snorkel's English parent company, Tanfield Group, said increased construction costs have postponed some projects and forced contractors to cut back on buying the company's equipment.

"If those guys see a downturn in their business and reduce their purchasing plans, then almost overnight you have a downturn in our industry," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the layoffs are not connected to the plant workers' decision June 27 to form a union. He said many of the company's international manufacturing plants are unionized.

"Snorkel manufactures a unique product that we market internationally," he said. "This isn't a situation where we would shutter a plant and move production elsewhere."

Union officials at the plant also doubted their entrance into the plant encouraged the layoffs, noting that they have yet to negotiate a contract.

"It reflects on the business of construction," said Steve Galloway, special representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "They're depending on the construction business, and the construction business is flat right now."

Snorkel is not alone. One of its largest competitors, JLG Industries, said last month it planned to lay off 375 workers in three of its plants in Pennsylvania.

Tanfield, which bought Snorkel last year, promised a $10 million expansion of the Elwood plant during a corporate visit in October and would add at least 100 jobs within a year.

The plant's work force had expanded from 360 last year to 450 at the time of the layoffs announcement.

"We did grow the company," Jenkins said. "This is an example of us hunkering down to weather the storm."

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