Major Arvin employer moving to Mexico, 87 to lose jobs

Major Arvin employer moving to Mexico, 87 to lose jobs »Play Video

ARVIN, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The state Employment Development Department released its latest unemployment figures on Thursday, showing that Arvin has a 30.6 percent unemployment rate, the highest in Kern County.

It's about to  get worse.

Salter Labs is moving its manufacturing operation out of Arvin and relocating to Juarez, Mexico. Eighty-seven jobs will be lost. For a small city, that's a significant hit.

"It's a big blow," said Arvin Mayor Jose Flores. "We're talking about not just 87 employees, there's 87 families that are going to struggle."

Salter Labs is a medical product company. It started in Arvin in 1976.

Its' manufacturing operation will be relocating to Juarez, which is just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Juarez is Mexico's most notorious city for drug-related violence and killings and where untold scores of women and young girls have disappeared.

Labor is also much less expensive in Juarez compared to wages in the United States. And that's another reason the company is relocating there, said spokeswoman Tatiana Repelin.

“We have a state-of-the-art facility in Juarez, Mexico, that had the majority of our manufacturing already. This was the final move to consolidate all of manufacturing in one location," said Repelin during a telephone interview.

Arvin employees at Salter Labs admit finding a new job may not be that easy once the company shuts its doors.

"It is a bit sad they are shutting down, because, for me, they've been a good employer," said Marta Contreras, who has worked at Salter Labs for 14 years as a machine operator.

Contreras said she plans to take a break after the shutdown and then start looking for a new job.

With unemployment so high in Arvin, the city is actively recruiting potential employers, said Arvin city manager Tim Chapa.

Two new businesses are already under construction: DaVita Dialysis and auto-parts store O'Reilly, both on Bear Mountain Blvd.  Potentially in the works is a hotel and two more stores, said the mayor.

Salter Labs is scheduled to have its manufacturing relocation complete by the end of the year. It will give employees severance pay and help them find a job, said spokesperson Repelin.