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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com The Best in Massachusetts Business

Raytheon still state's largest employer

Some Mass. companies were able to add workers

By Diane E. Lewis, Globe Staff, 5/21/2002


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Some of Massachusetts' biggest employers moved to maximize business by adding workers during 2001. Others, mindful of the recession, ordered layoffs and streamlined operations.

Others floundered as sales of computers, electronic equipment, and Internet services declined.

Raytheon Co., still the largest private-sector employer based in Massachusetts, reported it had 87,200 workers worldwide by year's end, down from 93,700 in 2000. By the end of the first quarter of 2002, the company had pared its work force to 79,000.

Raytheon attributed the staffing declines to the sale of several units, part of an ongoing strategy to strengthen the Lexington defense contractor's balance sheet by focusing on core businesses and debt reduction.

In July 2000, for example, Raytheon shed its engineering and construction unit and, in doing so, reduced its overall staff by 10,000.

"Most recently, we divested the aircraft integration systems unit in Greenville, Texas, which had 6,000 employees," said spokesman David Polk. "That is [mostly] how we got from 87,000 employees to 79,000."

At the same time, Raytheon has been hiring in core areas, he said.

Raytheon laid off 60 workers in its commercial electronics unit because of the recession. The Massachusetts unit makes components for cellphones. Raytheon also reduced staff at its aircraft business in Kansas by 1,700.

FleetBoston Financial Corp., the seventh-largest US bank, said it laid off about 1,000 employees in capital markets and investment banking because of the economic slowdown. The layoffs took place outside the state, spokesman James Mahoney said.

Fleet, New England's largest bank, completed a $1 billion acquisition last year of Liberty Financial Cos.' investment business. The purchase is expected to increase assets under management and result in recruitment of some new employees to sell funds through brokerage firms.

Propelled by increased sales or expansion, other big companies also added staff.

TJX Cos., for example, boosted worldwide employment by 10,000 in 2001, to 77,000. As a result, the company remains in second place on the Globe's list of the top 50 employers in Massachusetts.

Sherry Lang, vice president of investor and public relations, said the Framingham-based retailer has continued to add stores the past several months, increasing its total worldwide employment to 89,000.

"We are growing our store base by 11 percent annually worldwide," Lang said. "And we have to staff the stores that we are opening. In addition, we are building out the distribution infrastructure to support that store growth. So, we are adding associates to those facilities."

Buoyed by ongoing demand for medical devices, Boston Scientific Corp., of Natick, remained in 10th place. The company increased worldwide employment to 14,400 by the end of 2001, up from 13,720 in 2000.

One reason for the increase: Boston Scientific is among three leading firms that have stepped up efforts to produce drug-coated stents, which release anti-inflammation medications into the bloodstreams of patients suffering from clogged heart arteries. These new stents have been instrumental in opening up previously clogged arteries and could replace expensive coronary-artery bypass surgery, specialists say.

This year, Boston Scientific reportedly filed an amended application with the Food and Drug Administration regarding its plans to conduct advanced tests on a stent coated with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.

Spokesman Paul Donovan said efforts to bring a new stent to market were also involved in Boston Scientific's decision to hire additional research and development staff last year.

"Research and development is the lifeline of any medical device company, and we are committed to it strongly," Donovan said. "We believe we are on the threshold of a new era of treatment in coronary-artery disease. This was a major reason for employee increases during 2001." The company also boosted worldwide staff last year after acquiring six companies, he said.

DeWolfe Cos. added staff as low interest rates continued to propel home sales in New England, boosting revenue at the Lexington firm. This year, DeWolfe ranks 40th on the Globe's employer list, up from the number 50 spot last year. The company had 3,093 employees at the end of 2001, up from 2,829 in 2000. DeWolfe offers a range of home-ownership services, including mortgages, insurance, and relocation.

Dick DeWolfe, chief executive and chairman, said the company hired workers in its real estate, mortgage, insurance, and technology divisions. Increased consumer reliance on Internet real estate searches has, over the last few years, prompted the company to hire staff to film homes it sells in New England, he added.

Not all companies fared as well. The financial squeeze struck some firms especially hard.

ACT Manufacturing Inc., of Hudson, a maker of cable harness assemblies and a fast-growing niche manufacturer in 2000, filed for Chapter 11 protection in Bankruptcy Court in December, laying off hundreds of workers after its assets plunged and its debt reportedly exceeded its book value. ACT was 20th on the Globe's list of top employers last year.

Arch Wireless Inc., of Westborough, once one of the country's leading paging firms, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in December, too. Its fortunes changed as demand for its one-way paging devices declined.

Polaroid Corp., which ranked 19th last year, also was absent from this year's list. It declared bankruptcy in October. In its heyday, the Cambridge company boasted 21,000 employees worldwide. In August, it had 6,800.

Diane E. Lewis can be reached at dlewis@globe.com.

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