AUGUSTA (AP) – After eight months of advance notice, the final wave of employee layoffs began this week at Sanmina-SCI Corp., the electronics manufacturing plant whose work force stood at 440 last summer.

The staff was down to about 260 at the start of this week, before many employees put in their last shifts. Further layoffs will take place next week, leaving only a bare-bones crew in place until the plant closes later this spring.

California-based Sanmina-SCI said it was closing its Augusta operation and will transfer its equipment to facilities in Manchester, N.H., Canada and Mexico. The closure has been delayed several times since the July announcement to fill remaining product orders.

Dave Young, who puts in his last day Friday after working for eight years at Sanmina-SCI, said the early announcement of the closure gave employees time to make plans before the paychecks stopped, but it didn’t make the final days easy.

“It’s like being told you have a terminal illness,” he said.

Many workers left in waves over the past months, seeking other employment or training for new careers.

Young described the employees who waited until this month’s layoffs to leave work as “the last hold-offs.” Like Young, many of them do not have new jobs lined up and stayed through the winter to earn enough to pay heating bills and other expenses.

Jim Moulton, a sales order coordinator who loses his job next week, said the tone throughout most Sanmina-SCI departments has been somber in recent days as the staff thins out.

“Once (employees) get the paperwork it kind of hits home,” Moulton said. “People have been leaving on their own a lot and now they’re being forced to, kind of.”

In recent weeks, caseworkers at the Augusta Career Center have seen an influx of people requesting help in plotting out new career paths.

Help also came in the form of a $323,440 federal grant earmarked for programs designed to assist laid-off workers in retraining or finding other work.

In addition to lost jobs, Augusta faces a significant loss for its tax base when Sanmina-SCI closes its doors. The roughly 300,000-square-foot building and the high-tech equipment inside generated about $700,000 in city taxes.

AP-ES-04-04-03 0216EST

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