By Gordon Anderson |

The manufacturing portion of GKN Driveline’s Sanford facility in the Lee County Industrial Park will close permanently by March 19, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining notice filed last year with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The closure will result in the loss of 99 jobs, according to the final notice (an initial filing indicated the loss of just 36 jobs, but an updated version sent in January upped that number significantly). A foundry on the site will remain operational, but a company spokesperson said the number of jobs that will be retained there “is still under review.”

“A substantial proportion of the workforce is being retained and we are supporting those employees who are affected by the recent decision,” spokesman Chas Hallet said in an email.

The company, which manufactures automotive parts, returned to Sanford in 2014 after closing its plant in 2008, and as recently as 2016, had expanded locally, bringing 66 jobs and a $37 million tax base investment in exchange for a $432,000 tax incentive over five years. According to county officials, the company will not be required to repay any reduced property taxes from that five year period because it met the conditions of the deal for that time, but no new economic incentives will be paid out.

Jimmy Randolph, CEO of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, said Friday that while it’s never good to lose an industry, prospects are good that most of the displaced workers can be absorbed by new or existing industry.

“We’re very fortunate to have had the recent announcements we’ve had, considering the tough decisions some of our legacy industries have had to make lately,” he said. “As these folks are making decisions to relocate or scale down, it’s the local employees who are most affected. But because of the collaboration of a lot of folks here, particularly with Bharat Forge, we think there’ll be a softer landing for a lot of these people.”