Phil Jensen with samples of his company’s lures and tackle.
By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA
July 16, 2005
Most, but not all, of Luhr Jensen and Son’s 100 jobs will be phased out over the next two years as part of the company’s pending merger with the Finnish company Rapala/VMC.
Luhr Jensen owner Phil Jensen announced Wednesday that the merger should be official by the end of July and that by early 2006 some of the jobs at the waterfront fishing equipment manufacturing operation will be moved to Rapala’s plant in Shenzen, China, just north of Hong Kong.
“A lot of the manufacturing will be transferred to China, but it is our intention to maintain a sales office and some product finishing here in Hood River,” Jensen said.
“There will be a Luhr Jensen presence in Hood River,” he said.
Jensen hopes to keep manufacturing custom lures in Hood River. That would amount to roughly 30 of the existing positions, he said. Jensen stressed that the Rapala merger does not affect the company’s Little Smoker operation in Oak Grove. He expects that operation to nearly double in coming years, though the work force will not necessarily grow that much.
Jensen expects a noticeable decrease in the number of local jobs within about a year, but that depends on how things go in China.
“No one will leave until there has been a successful transfer of operations to China,” he said.
“There is a note of sadness with this,” he said of the pending reduction of force of the family company he has worked for since 1960.
“The good old days were nice but manufacturing can’t be done in the U.S. anymore. China is the manufacturing arm of the global economy.”
Jensen announced the Rapala merger in May, and has since been working extensively with his Finnish counterparts and their representatives in details of the deal, which involves most of the company’s inventory and manufacturing equipment but not the building or real estate.
Jensen said that those employees who do lose their jobs will be eligible for federally supported unemployment benefits and training, since theirs are manufacturing jobs transferred overseas.
“We’re trying to secure those benefits for our people,” Jensen said.
“It will be a gradual phase-out of jobs as they have ramped up in China, to give us the type of seamless transition with our customer base,” said Jensen, who will serve on the Rapala board of directors and help oversee the manufacturing and distribution of Luhr Jensen products.
Luhr Jensen will still have a separate catalog, but benefit from a new global connections, he said.
“I’ll have the opportunity to travel and explore opportunities for Luhr Jensen products and to train their sales and production people,” he said.
The merger will “take Luhr Jensen and the reputation of Luhr Jensen to a lot farther place than our company and I would be able to do otherwise,” he said.
“This will give us exposure to the worldwide market, beyond the U.S. and Canada where we have been.”