Heading for the Hills

Advent Corp. Leaves City

Like an average Massachusetts citizen looking to restock the family liquor cabinet, the Cambridge-based Advent stereo Corporation is headed for New Hampshire.

But where most people turn North for cheap booze, the Advent Corporation is going for cheap labor, lower taxes and elbow room. And where most come back from the Granite State the same day, Advent is setting down permanent roots.

Advent will be out of Cambridge on February 15, leaving about 450 workers jobless, Peter Sprague, the company president, said last week. "I knew when I got here three and a half years ago that we would have to move," he added.

The announcement of the decision came as a severe disappointment to City Hall, currently at work on a campaign to attract business to the city.

Still and all, assistant mayor Bernie Flynn said he wasn't worried the move signalled the beginning of a corporate pilgrimage out of the city. "They're not leaving Cambridge because they didn't like it," Flynn said. "It was strictly a business decision," he added.

Flynn said his campaign included federal funds for East Cambridge development, and for impending development in the Alewife area. "We think we've got 3500 jobs right there," Flynn said. "The mayor isn't worried about the long term trend."

The company's employees, however, were not as philosophical. One hundred and fifty will stay at work in Cambridge, but 450 others will be left without jobs, because of what Flynn termed a "deal" with New Hampshire officials to hire mostly local workers for the new plant.

The employees rode Cambridge schoolbuses last Friday to the State House, where they carried their protest to George Kariotis, the state labor chief.

"The state listened politely. There's just nothing they can do," Flynn said. "There is nothing the city can do either," he added.

"People are still yelling and screaming," Karen L. Zweig, a labor advocate for the State Social and Economic Opportunity Council, said yesterday. She added, though, that "I haven't heard any serious plans for doing anything."

"If we'd known six months ago what was coming...If the workers had a union contract, things might have been different," Zweig said. "There might have been a way out."