LEWISTON — A local company that’s expanding to a plant in rural Tennessee appears to be preparing for layoffs at home in Lewiston.

The U.S. Department of Labor is examining a petition to help workers at Elmet Technologies at 1560 Lisbon St. If approved, the aid would supplement unemployment benefits for the workers, who say their jobs are being lost due to foreign competition.

The request for federal help came from workers at the Lewiston plant, said John Dorrer, acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor.

He did not know how many jobs could be lost.

And officials at Elmet Technologies wouldn’t say. Numerous calls from the Sun Journal to the company went unanswered.

However, an Elmet worker who declined to be identified said equipment from Lewiston may already be headed to the plant in Tennessee.

Elmet Technologies has been in Lewiston since 1929. The company works with molybdenum and tungsten metals to supply lighting, semiconductor and medical markets. According to its website, Elmet employs about 230 people in its 220,000-square-foot Lewiston complex.

In December, the company announced plans to invest $2.1 million in a subsidiary operation in Gordonsville, Tenn., about 40 minutes from Nashville. They took over a 58,000-square-foot plant that was vacated by Dura, an automotive supply company that let about 200 workers go when it moved to Canada.

The new company will be named ETI Precision, according to a statement from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The state’s release also cited plans for 12 jobs, but it suggested that more may come.

“There is clear growth potential in the immediate future through leveraging the material and process capabilities created in ETI with Elmet’s existing customer base,” Elmet CEO Robin Cook said in the release.

Elmet has been advertising in the Nashville and Smith County, Tenn., newspapers for precision machinists and has directed resumes to the human resources office in Lewiston.

Historically, Elmet served as a supplier to Philips Lighting Co. For six decades it was owned by the lighting giant and called Philips Elmet.  In 2003, the company went private and pledged to stay in Maine.

In 2007, Elmet Technologies was sold to a group of Boston investors, Harbor Acquisition Corp.

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