Lights out at GE in Ravenna, traffic signal next

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

The lights are out at the Ravenna plant that used to make light bulbs, and the traffic light in front of the plant is going next.

General Electric Co. closed its plant at on North Chestnut Street at S.R. 14 in Ravenna. The plant employed 164 people when GE made the decision official in March.

City Engineer Bob Finney said city council had previously agreed to remove the traffic signal in front of the plant once the closing became official. The closing had originally been projected to take place between January and March, but operations ceased in December, Finney said.

The signal had traditionally been flashing except for a period of the day when shift change took place at the plant.

Finney asked council to appropriate $3,000 to remove the signal, poles and electrical service to them.

However, at least one member of City Council seemed to have a change of heart.

"I know we said before that if somebody wanted to move into that building, that they'd have to put in a signal," Councilman Jack Ferguson said. "But that's a nice way to welcome somebody to town. Welcome to Ravenna, now you have to pay for a traffic light."

Finney said the signal is in "bad shape" and could "literally fall down." It's not clear what kind of signal a new business would need, but it would be a good idea to tie it in to signals at S.R. 14 and Ravenna High School, something that's not possible with the old signal. Parts for such an old traffic light are not easy to come by, and the bulbs are not energy efficient.

"As long as it's hanging, we need to maintain it," he said.

There are also plans to remove the traffic signal at the old Ravenna High School site at Clinton and East Main streets, even though the Portage County Port Authority is moving forward with a proposal there.

The Ravenna GE plant is located on 56.42 acres. More than two-thirds of its employees -- 112 people -- were to be eligible for retirement or a plant-closing pension option, officials from the plant said previously. The remaining 52 employees were eligible for preferential employment placement at up to 10 GE locations.

The Ravenna plant made high-intensity discharge lamps. GE said the plant operated at less than one-third of its full capacity as customers have shifted to less costly, energy efficient lighting products.

GE's operations in Ravenna date back to the early 1960s. At its peak, the local plant employed about 400 workers at the 160,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and distribution center.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

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