The impact of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. closure in Fremont continues to reverberate through the Central Valley, reaching well past the plant and its primary suppliers.
Manteca-based transportation company Mountain Valley Express is the latest company to announce layoffs. It plans to let go of 41 employees, including drivers, warehouse workers, supervisors and clerical positions.
"NUMMI has been our single largest account for 25 of the 34 years we've been in business," said company President Scott Blevins. "People think, well, (NUMMI) is in the Bay Area, it's not going to affect the valley. But when you start looking at where the suppliers are and the subsuppliers are, it's in a 100-mile radius of the plant. It's huge."
The NUMMI Toyota plant employs about 4,500 workers, all of whom will lose their jobs when it closes March 31. Some 900 NUMMI workers live in San Joaquin County and 300 more in Stanislaus County.
In addition, 10 of the plant's primary suppliers are in San Joaquin County, with one each in Stanislaus and Merced counties.
Across the state, about 15,500 jobs at suppliers are expected to be eliminated.
Earlier this month, Trim Masters Inc. in Modesto announced that it would lay off its 186 employees when NUMMI closes. The company supplies interior door panels for Toyota Tacomas produced at the plant.
The announcements typify the tiered effect the NUMMI closure will have across the area. The first tier of job losses will be at the plant, the second level will be at suppliers such as Trim Masters, followed by companies that work with the suppliers, such as Mountain Valley Express.
"Those are the indirect effects (of the closure) right there," said Jeff Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific, which has been reporting on the NUMMI closure's impact for months. "The trucking and transportation industry, the parts suppliers, the people who link them up. Those are the ripple effects and they will be fairly large."
Other area suppliers that have announced closures or layoffs through Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice filings include Arvin Sango Inc. in Merced, with some 50 employees, and Pacific Coast MS Industries Ltd. in Tracy, with about 150 employees.
Manteca's Amtex Inc., with some 100 employees, has indicated it also will close, though its WARN notice has not been received, according to Hope Arechar, a rapid response coordinator for the Stockton Worknet Center.
Jobless rate could jump
Michael said that when NUMMI and its suppliers shut down, it could add a full percentage point to the area's already high unemployment rate, which is 17.5 percent in Stanislaus and 19.8 percent in Merced.
"We're looking at clearly hundreds of jobs lost from direct suppliers," he said. "All those people have families, they all shop in the stores and they eat in restaurants. They have kids who go to the schools. It's all connected to it.
"We will have more unemployed families; they'll have less to spend. Some of them may even move away," Michael said. "It doesn't just stop at the plant. It keeps going."
Blevins, of Mountain Valley Express, said the company has been planning for the NUMMI closure since its announcement. Hardest hit will be its consolidation dock, which puts together loads from 11 area suppliers to be taken to Fremont. The facility will shut down once the plant closes.
"It's very difficult. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," Blevins said of the layoffs. "We take great pride in taking care of people. We call them family. We're here to create jobs and provide employment, not lose them."
The company has had Alliance Worknet and Employment Development Department talk to its workers in Manteca. Mountain Valley Express has 385 employees across three states -- California, Arizona and Nevada.
Mountain Valley Express forklift driver and Modesto resident Anthony Perales works on the consolidation dock. The 11-year employee is worried about finding new work and navigating the unemployment system.
"We have bills like everyone else," said the 51-year-old, who is married with a 13-year-old daughter. "Fortunately, I do have a wife who works. But we have to tighten our belts and cut corners."
Uncertain of the future
Perales' manager, Robert Alberti, is unsure whether his job will continue past the NUMMI closure. The 10-year employee said that while there is concern and worry, most of the employees still are working hard and aren't resentful of the situation.
"They're closing and we're all affected, but it's nobody's fault here," said the Ripon resident. "We're all just doing our jobs to the best of our abilities as long as we can."
Perales, who faithfully has driven Toyotas since he started work at Mountain Valley Express, said even after NUMMI closes and he loses his job, he has no plans to change brand loyalty.
"I'll always buy Toyota," he said. "It's just the next Toyota I'll buy won't be made in California."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2284.