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Case New Holland cutting jobs in Fargo

Fargo's largest manufacturing employer, Case New Holland, is cutting 140 jobs - slightly more than 20 percent of its work force - effective March 16.

Case New Holland, manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment, is cutting the hourly positions due to the economy and a need to align production with demand, said Ralph Traviati, CNH Global North America head of news and information.

CNH Global N.V. oversees the Fargo Case New Holland plant, which employs 694 people.

Traviati said the company has not yet determined who will be laid off. All the employees know at this point is that there will be job cuts.

One local economic development official said the cuts will have far-reaching effects.

"When you look at the manufacturing sector as a whole, that has a significant multiplier," said Brian Walters, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. president. "There's a lot of components in other products manufactured or painted or coated, locally that go into a final assembly."

The job cuts will affect employees on all product lines, Traviati said.

CNH plans to make the decisions quickly, possibly as soon as the middle of next week, he said.

Traviati said it's difficult to say at this point whether there will be additional cuts down the road at the Fargo plant.

"The company will continue to look for opportunities to utilize the plant capacity," Traviati said.

In December, Chris Skeldum, president of the International Association of Machinists, a local machinists union, said Case New Holland planned 10 weeks of temporary layoffs spread over four months.

Traviati told The Forum on Friday that the 140 cuts are indefinite.

Last April, Fargo awarded Case New Holland a 10-year tax exemption worth $625,567 on an $18 million plant expansion meant to save 200 jobs from moving to a similar plant in Brazil.

At the time, Case New Holland said the savings would help the company retain its 694 Fargo workers and add 150 workers in 2008, 100 workers in 2009 and another 100 workers in 2010.

The company has not yet received the tax exemptions, according to Ben Hushka, Fargo City Assessor. Hushka said he expects city leaders will have to evaluate the situation.

Walters said local companies that compete in an international marketplace are feeling the effects of the credit crisis and slowing demand for products.

"It's a tough deal for the company, and it's definitely a product of the conditions of the national and global economy and directly related to the credit markets," Walters said.

"I understand that overseas credit is very difficult to obtain and that orders are not coming in. While there may be demand, there's just not financing to place those orders."