Kent’s Flow International to move operations, manufacturing to Kansas

Move coming in June, 110 employees to lose jobs

Flow International, which started in Kent in the 1970s, is moving its manufacturing and operations functions to Baxter Springs, Kan.

The company uses waterjet technology to cut hard materials like metal, ceramic, stone, glass and composite as well as soft materials like gasket, foam, plastic, paper, disposable diapers, insulation, cement board, automotive interiors, carpet and food.

“This was not an easy decision,” said David Savage, president and CEO at Shape Technologies, the parent company of Flow International, in a March 29 company press release. “After a great deal of consideration and analysis, we needed to make the tough choice on where our U.S. manufacturing operations would be based for the long term.

“The cost of doing business in the Seattle area has changed dramatically over the last few years, and the cost of manufacturing in the region continues to climb. As we look into the future, we expect these operating challenges to continue to increase, and we are taking the step now to combine operations in order to remain competitive in our marketplace.”

About 110 employees will lose their jobs, according to a report to the Kent City Council by Bill Ellis, city economic development manager.

“We recognize their efforts, and we are doing everything we can to ensure they transition into new careers,” Savage said. “In addition to providing three months notice, we are providing severance packages to all affected employees.”

Most of the transition will occur on June 30, although some limited functions will continue in Kent for three to six months after that date.

Flow International’s headquarters will remain in Kent.

“The Flow leadership team, along with the design, engineering, commercial and financial activities of Flow will remain in Kent for the long term, and we are planning investment in new facilities in Kent in 2019 to support our continued growth,” Savage said.

Shape Technologies bought Flow International in 2014, Ellis said. Former Boeing research and development scientists founded Flow Research in the 1970s. Flow International employs approximately 700 around the world with offices in North and South America, Asia and Europe.

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