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Toppan Optical Products Calls It Quits Due to Business Slowdown

A Poway plant that makes micro-display screens for rear-projection televisions is closing effective Aug. 30, and laying off 165 employees, citing a downturn in the market for such televisions.

Toppan Optical Products Inc., a division of Tokyo-based Toppan Printing Co. Ltd., said last week it was closing down the plant because of deteriorating business conditions.

“The reason for this plant shutdown decision is that business conditions have not improved since our March 2007 reduction in force and it is unprofitable for our company to continue its operations,” said Takashi Sekura, Toppan Optical’s chief executive officer and president.

Opened in 2003, the plant is the second-largest manufacturer in Poway that closed this year.

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In June, Jabil Circuit Inc., based in St. Petersburg, Fla., closed a plant in the South Poway Business Park, and laid off the remaining 143 employees.

The closures go against the grain of what has been a general fast-growing business park. Since its opening in the late 1990s, some 715 acres of a planned 800-acre region has been developed.

About 500 companies have operations in the park, and employ about 19,000 workers, said Kim Schmidt, Poway’s economic development manager.

The business park continues to increase in size, and recently added stores from some of the nation’s largest retailers, including Home Depot, Costco and Kohl’s, Schmidt said.

Toppan Optical made screens that were part of rear-projection televisions manufactured by some of the largest television manufacturers in the world, including Sony, Panasonic and Samsung.

Earlier this year, Sony cut about 800 jobs at its plant outside of Pittsburgh after it moved manufacturing of rear-projection televisions to Mexico.

Demand Response

Sony said it was responding to global competition on the TVs’ pricing, and a shift among consumers to plasma-screen and liquid crystal display TVs.

Screens made by Toppan were shipped to both Sony’s plants in Pittsburgh and Tijuana, Baja Mexico, said Michael Milligan, Toppan’s human resources manager.

Milligan was unable to say what Toppan’s peak employment was, but in March, the company laid off about 100 employees.

The laid-off workers were given severance packages and help in finding new jobs, Milligan said.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. recently purchased two buildings owned by Toppan Optical for $44 million.

Toppan Printing Co. Ltd., a public company, reported 2006 sales of $13 billion and had 36,000 employees in operations in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

San Diego County has continued to lose manufacturing jobs this year, resulting in the relocation of making goods to cheaper labor nations, notably China and Mexico.

For the 12 months ended in July, the area sustained a net loss of 1,100 manufacturing jobs, reducing the total number in the manufacturing sector to 102,400, according to the most recent report from the California Employment Development Department. In 2006, the San Diego region lost 2,150 manufacturing jobs, the EDD report said.


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