SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Honeywell International is laying off hundreds of employees at a Smithfield facility that was touted from the White House podium last year for making N95 face masks, Target 12 has learned.
Honeywell spokesperson Eric Krantz confirmed the job cuts on Wednesday, saying approximately 470 jobs are being cut. Employees were notified Wednesday and were urged to apply for other jobs at the company, he said. Eligible workers will receive severance.
“We are now seeing a dramatic reduction in demand for N95s in the U.S. as many states are ending or scaling back mask mandates and vaccinations are being widely distributed,” Krantz said in a statement. “For these reasons, Honeywell is adjusting its N95 operations and ceasing manual production of N95s at our facility in Smithfield.”
He indicated the company is shifting production of N95s to “more efficient, automated production lines” that were created during the pandemic.
The Smithfield facility was first in the national spotlight last March, when White House trade adviser Peter Navarro announced in a television interview that he had been working with Honeywell to ramp up mask production there as the Trump administration scrambled to tackle the crisis. President Trump himself mentioned the Rhode Island facility during a March 22 briefing.
“We appreciate the hard work and dedication these employees displayed in helping to protect American frontline workers battling the pandemic,” Krantz said. “The U.S. remains Honeywell’s largest N95 manufacturing operation, and we will continue to deliver PPE to help protect workers on the job.”
Honeywell’s Smithfield factory was established in 1980 and as of early last year had been producing UVEX-branded eye protection products like protective face shields and safety glasses and goggles.
Gov. Dan McKee said his administration, along with the state’s congressional delegation and the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, is organizing a job fair “to support employees transitioning out of their work with Honeywell.”