Business as Usual at Edwards

Rumors of deal had been circulating; plant employees' reactions have been positive


PITTSFIELD, Maine (AP) -- A manager at the Edwards Systems Technology plant in Pittsfield, Maine, the town's largest employer, says the decision to sell the fire-and-security unit of SPX Corp. comes as no surprise.

Thomas Parrilli, the plant's director of operations, said rumors of a sale had been circulating for weeks before Monday's announcement that General Electric Co. plans to buy EST for $1.4 billion in an all-cash deal.

Workers at the plant, which turns out fire and security alarms, learned of the pending sale when it was announced over the plant's intercom. Connecticut-based Edwards also has a smaller satellite operation in Newport.

``I think the reaction was generally positive,'' Parrilli said. ``Rumors are generally worse than reality, and GE is a well-known and well-regarded company.''

Parrilli said the sale will not affect the number of employees at the Pittsfield facility, which averages around 400. ``Right now, it's business as usual,'' he said.

The sale, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to be completed in early 2005.

Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said the plant, which opened in 1956, is vital to the town because of the number and quality of its jobs. She said the security company has always turned a profit, a fact she hopes will reduce the likelihood of any major changes.

Maine's Department of Economic and Community Development was aware of the sale but had no immediate comment on its implications, according to Joy Leach, a spokeswoman for Gov. John Baldacci.

GE Infrastructure, a division of GE, will take over EST. GE Infrastructure is an international company composed of four high-technology businesses that focus on security, water purification, industrial automation and sensing technologies.

GE expects cost savings from the deal, but said it's too soon to predict whether there will be layoffs.

``We see significant revenue and cost synergies with this combination, and expect the acquisition to be accretive to GE's 2005 earnings,'' said Bill Woodburn, president and chief executive of GE Infrastructure.