SALEM, Va. (WDBJ7) -- The GE plant in Salem opened in 1955, and at its peak it employed more than three thousand people.
The days when the parking lots were packed with cars are long past, and the news that the plant could close was not a complete surprise.
In a statement Salem Mayor Randy Foley said "Sadly industrial plants across the country have been through tough times in recent years. I think we always knew this was a possibility, especially since GE has been reducing its workforce worldwide. in past years."
"GE truly has been a Salem institution for decades," said Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess, "and we hope that many of these individuals can find new employment elsewhere in the valley.”
Vicky Hurley is President of IUE-CWA Local 82161 which represents workers at the plant. She says the news has affected employees in different ways.
"Some are really sad and kind of took it as being shocked and devastated,” Hurley said in an interview Friday afternoon. “Some are a little angry because they know that the work is probably going to be going overseas somewhere instead of left here in Virginia."
The union president said she hasn't given up hope that GE might reverse its decision.
The union contract includes a window for negotiations between the company and the union.
And Hurley said she welcomes help from politicians and others in the community who could help to turn this around.
General Electric announced to its employees Friday morning that the Salem GE plant has given the union an "intent to close the plant" notice.
The union president representing GE employees says the company plans to close the plant within 12 to 24 months. In all, 265 employees will be affected, 221 of those being hourly employees.
GE said in a statement Friday: "Based on the ongoing challenges in the power industry and a significant decline in orders at this facility, we have announced our intent to close our manufacturing facility in Salem, VA, and move the remaining work to other GE locations or to supplier partners. If requested by the local union, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, GE will engage in a 60-day decision bargaining period with the union regarding the intended closure. "
In its statement, GE says "This action is difficult and does not reflect the performance, dedication, and hard work of our employees."
GE also says the impacted employees, half of which are eligible for retirement, would be provided with a comprehensive severance package. This includes transition support to new employment, according the GE.