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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Breaking news: Cobham Tracking lays off 17 more local employees

High-tech gear developed in NS with help of Canadian taxpayers now made in Florida.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 1:54 PM

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Dartmouth-based Cobham Tracking and Locating laid off 17 employees last week. Three separate sources told The Coast of the layoffs; the dismissed workers include the vice-president of engineering and the director of product development, the project manager, assemblers, techs, “right down to the janitor and the kids who ran the machine shop,” says one of the sources. Twelve of the laid off employees worked at Cobham’s Burnside operation; five others worked at the Windsor location.

As we reported earlier this year (“From Nova Scotia with love,” April 5), Cobham PLC, a British munitions corporation with $3 billion in annual sales, had last decade bought two home-grown Nova Scotian companies---Seimac and Orion---and merged them, forming Cobham Tracking and Locating. The earlier companies had developed high-tech tracking equipment that is used by military and police agencies around the world.

Seimac and Orion had received millions of dollars in Canadian taxpayer support to develop the equipment, and Cobham Tracking & Locating received $500,000 loan from ACOA in 2008, over $300,000 in grants from the National Research Council Canada and an indeterminable amount in federal tax rebates through Revenue Canada's Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (those rebates are not public record).

Still, despite being subsidized by Canadian taxpayers, on December 31, 2011 Cobham moved production and support of the products developed here to another Cobham subsidiary in Florida. Nine days later, 11 Nova Scotian employees were laid off.

Contacted by The Coast Tuesday, Cobham PLC spokesperson Monica Hallman confirms the layoffs and says they are “due to a lack of orders for its products.” There are 79 remaining Cobham employees in Nova Scotia.

Hallman will not say what long-range plans Cobham PLC has for its Nova Scotia operations.

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