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Unemployment watch

Hood River plant faces uncertain future

The future of Western Power Products is in question, according to John Breed, spokesperson for its parent company.

"Cooper Industries is conducting a review of the Hood River operation to determine whether it should continue in its current form or whether there would be some other option that would be better for us and our business," said Breed.

He said the final decision is still pending on whether the Hood River plant will continue operations, be shut down, or sold to another firm.

"We are trying to keep our employees informed as we move through this process," he said.

Western Power is located on Hood River's waterfront and currently has a 22-person work force. The manufacturing facility molds fiberglass enclosures for electrical power distribution equipment, such as transformers.

The local firm is part of Cooper Power Systems Division, owned by Cooper Industries, which is based in Houston, Texas. The international company, with 2000 revenues of $4.5 billion, decided to initiate the review of its North American holdings when customer demand was reduced by a downturn in the nation's economy. That review followed hiring freezes, layoffs, and other spending cuts in late 2000.

"The economic slowdown which began in the latter half of 2000 has become much more severe and pervasive than we had previously anticipated," said H. John Riley, Jr., Cooper's chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a March 16 press release.

Breed said no date has been set for the final word on Western Power's fate, but the company plans to keep a strong communication link with employees who could be affected by any changes.

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