One day after the election

UPDATED: Rocketdyne lays off 100 - mostly in San Fernando Valley - LA Daily News

About 100 employees at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, most of whom work in the San Fernando Valley, were laid off Wednesday in response to dwindling government spending on space exploration, the company said.

The layoffs were effective immediately, and 75 percent of them came at the facilities on Canoga and De Soto avenues, which employ about 1,100 people. The company has seven sites across the nation, including two in the Valley.

"The uncertain future of the space industry and current economic conditions have created an environment where we must take these steps to ensure we remain competitive," the company said in a statement.

Layoffs had been expected at rocket-engine maker Rocketdyne, which is in the process of being sold to Sacramento-based GenCorp Inc. for $550 million.

GenCorp spokesman Glenn Mahone declined to comment on the layoffs.

The company is buying Rocketdyne from Hartford, Conn.- based United Technologies Corp., which has owned Rocketdyne for seven years.

Mahone said the sale is being reviewed by regulators, and he does not know when it will be completed.

Rocketdyne dates back to the infancy of the nation's space program. Its engines powered astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the famed Apollo program and later boosted the space shuttle fleet to lengthy orbits of Earth and to the International Space Station.

NASA has retired the shuttle fleet, and Rocketdyne said it needed to trim its workforce as a result.

The layoffs are part of an "ongoing effort" to become more efficient and cost-effective, the company said.

Over the past several years the company has instituted cost-cutting measures, such as travel reductions, merit pay deferrals, furloughs and scaling back the hiring of outside contractors.

"This was a very difficult decision, and PWR is taking all reasonable steps to ensure that impacted employees have access to advice, counseling and career services to help them through their transition from PWR to future employment, or whatever endeavor they may choose," the company statement said.

Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, associate economist at the Kyser Center for Economic Research in Los Angeles, said these are the kinds of jobs the region needs.

"It's a big blow," she said, noting that most of the positions were likely high-wage jobs. "We're talking about high-quality jobs like engineering and technology."

Ritter-Martinez said Rocketdyne is adjusting to a new era for businesses that focus on government contracts.

"The big government contracts and programs with NASA are declining. We're facing probably 10 years of budget cuts going forward, and there is a trend toward the privatization of space," she said.

But the laid-off workers might be in a good position to find jobs in other sectors.

"There is always a market for people with these kinds of skills, and there is more going on now in the commercial aviation sector," Ritter-Martinez said.