Company's cutbacks waylay Oklahoma City's hopes of optical fiber plant

Sunday, May 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The doors of a planned Oklahoma City optical fiber plant may stay shut even longer after its owner, Corning Inc., announced cost-cutting moves last week.

City government and business leaders, however, still say they think the plant will open.

``All their commitments indicate they plan to build that plant,'' said Mayor Kirk Humphreys. ``I think they're doing the right things as a company to be conservative and pull their horns in.''

The state and the city have offered Corning a six-year property tax exemption that could save the company $22 million.

Corning stopped construction at the 191-acre site in west Oklahoma City almost a year ago. The company shut down an optical fiber plant in Wales. Corning stopped work at its four other plants for several months and delayed expansion at its Concord, N.C., plant.

The company recently announced 4,000 more job cuts after 10,000 last year. Corning's new chief executive, James R. Houghton, warned last week the austerity measures were just beginning.

``It's just not the time to be going into an expansion or a new plant,'' Corning spokeswoman Beth Dann said.

She said it would hurt more than help if the company opened the plant and was then forced to lay off employees.

``We want a healthy Corning here when they do come,'' said Cynthia Reed of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber President Richard Burpee also said he doesn't see any trouble signs in Corning's strategy.

``I have every confidence Corning will be here,'' he said. ``It looks like the economy is turning around. We saw the national economy growth of 5.8 percent. If that trend continues we're going to see Corning start here.''

Construction of the plant had been scheduled to finish no later than early 2005. It was supposed to begin operation with 800 employees.