SKF closing surprises local leaders

Posted at 1:03 PM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 13:03:00-05

An automotive packager, warehouser and distributor that has called Northern Kentucky home for 20 years is closing up shop, a move that surprised some local leaders when announced on Monday.

SKF USA Inc., which handles bearings, hub-bearing units, seals and U-joints for automotive and heavy-duty aftermarkets, is transferring its Hebron operations south to Crossville, Tenn., where SKF already has operations in place.

The transition is expected to be complete no later than July and will result in the eventual closure of its facility at Meridian Place. A total of 145 employees will be affected, SKF officials said.

Tom O’Brien, president of SKF vehicle service market, said the move was largely industry driven. The North American aftermarket is increasingly competitive; consolidating will improve efficiency and output, while optimizing delivery and flexibility, he added. It doesn't appear, however, that economic development officials were aware the company was plotting the changes until the news hit this week.

“Northern Kentucky Tri-ED had the opportunity to meet with SKF in 2015 and at that time there was no indication of a closure,” Dan Tobergte, the group’s president/CEO, told He said they’d work with the Kentucky Career Center to help those impacted by the closure and would “seek every opportunity to backfill lost jobs in Boone County.”

Monique Turner, SKF spokeswoman, said some of the 145 employees would be given the opportunity to transfer. She did not know how many would ultimately accept that offer.

Warehousing employees will be first to go, according to a notice filed with the commonwealth. They can expect to be terminated beginning in May. A schedule for the remaining separating employees has yet to be released.

News of this type has certainly not been the norm as of late in Boone County. Tri-ED, for example, recently announced that 2015 had been one of its best years ever in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. Twenty-seven companies announced new locations and expansions, resulting in 2,435 new jobs and more than $459.8 million in capital investment.

“It is an extremely difficult decision to close our Hebron facility,” O’Brien said. “However, it is critical that SKF provides the foundation for exceptional customer service in the most efficient way possible. Consolidating our distribution and packaging operations will place SKF in the best position possible to do this for many years to come.”