Advent Corporation Leaves Cambridge

The Advent Corporation, a nationally-known manufacturer of loudspeakers and other electronic equipment, will close its Cambridge headquarters and plant facilities on Feb. 15 when it shifts its operations to New Hampshire.

The move will leave about 500 of the plant's 650 workers jobless.

"The corporation, which grossed $35 million last year, is leaving primarily for economic reasons," Peter Sprague, president of Advent, said yesterday. Advent's plant now comprises eight separate buildings in the Cambridge area which are "old, dilapidated and difficult to operate," Sprague said.

"I knew when I got here three and one-half years ago that we'd have to move sometime," Sprague said, explaining that mass-production spread over eight separate buildings was inefficient. "Nobody mass-produces in a city; the move had to be made," he added.

Cambridge Mayor Thomas W. Danehy last night called the move "very unfortunate." He said, "Nobody likes to see a firm with that many jobs leave. Unemployment is much higher than we'd like to see it."

Sprague said Advent could have remained in Cambridge by purchasing land at $2 per square foot in Kendall Square, but he added that such a purchase would have required the corporation to construct a multi-story building on the property. "A single-story facility is a hell of a lot more efficient," he said.

Advent has secured 250,000 square feet of space in a one-story building for speaker production in New Hampshire at the rate of $2.65 per square foot. "I can't imagine a situation where someone could [have found similar facilities] for $2.65 per square foot in Cambridge," Sprague said.

Although Advent made the decision to leave Cambridge last summer, the corporation did not plan on moving until this spring. However, because of a slackening of business in November which Sprague would have required a two- to three-month lay-off for a large number of workers, he felt Advent should use its lag time to move rather than wait.

Sprague did not announce the move to workers until last Friday.

"The whole thing was kind of strange," Danehy said, adding, "The workers didn't know about it until it was time to move ... For some reason it didn't manage to leak out."

Workers are unhappy over the move, since few will be rehired for the New Hampshire plant. Advent plans to give New Hampshire residents preference over jobs and lower wages than Cambridge workers now receive, Danehy said.

Sprague said Advent stands to save 15 to 20 per cent in labor costs as a result of the move, amounting to about $1.5 million on 400 jobs.

Hazard?

Recently, a Cambridge resident told the Cambridge City Council and state environmental agencies that she had developed an above normal concentration of styrene in her body as a result of her residence's proximity to Advent's Sidney Street plant, which emits polystyrene fumes. The state decided to sue Advent for releasing an "objectionable odor" into the air, Sprague said, but he denied that Advent's use of polystyrene in the manufacturing of giant television screens presents any hazard.

Cambridge residents have frequently picketed the corporation over the styrene emissions. They have also attempted to start a boycott of Advent products.

"Advent has had bad relations with the neighborhood and its relations with the city were not much better. The president [of Advent] was going his own way--he was not going to work with anyone," City Councilor Kevin P. Crane '73 said yesterday.

Retailers in the area contacted yesterday said they did not expect much of a change in Advent prices as a result of the move. "Their product was becoming noncompetitive," Robert Dollinger, assistant manager of Tech-HiFi on Boylston Street said yesterday, referring to Advent component price increases which resulted from increased manufacturing costs. "Now they should be able to hold prices at the present level," he added