Marion mourns loss of Lockheed Martin
After the Marion Lockheed Martin complex announced it would close by 2022 — former and current employees, alongside town officials, mourned the imminent loss.
“I was completely shocked, I gotta say,” said long-time employee Bill Beardsley.
Beardsley began his time at Sippican in 1981, and said he remembers the summer before he began working at the company.
He recalled being around town late at night, seeing the lights at Sippican Ocean Systems still on, and having a feeling that something really special was going on at the company.
“It really was kind of high-tech for the day,” Beardsley said.
Even then, Sippican Ocean Systems had been a key manufacturer of underwater warfare technology.
Beardsely also said he remembered the small-company culture of Sippican before it was acquired by Lockheed Martin in 2004.
At his first Christmas party with the company, Beardsley recalled his boss dancing on tables.
“That’s great stuff!” he said.
Beardsley also remembered company outings like a cookout that would happen before a two-week, company-wide shutdown every summer, fishing trips, and being part of a “very informal” running team, which would participate in local races from time to time.
But as the company grew, and after it was acquired by Lockheed Martin, those types of outings began to go away.
“It just got more corporate,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley still works part-time for the company, helping Lockheed Martin transfer away from what he described as a near-obsolete computer system. He said that his work at the company will likely be finished before the Marion location closes in 2022.
Many of Beardsley’s memories are shared by Anita Waagen, a former employee who began her time at the company in 1982.
Waagen said she worked in many of the departments at the company as a secretary, from sales to engineering.
“It was one of the best places I’ve ever worked,” Waagen said. “People referred to it as a country club because they did so much for the employees and the employees’ families.”
Waagen and Beardsley both recounted that, while it was still Sippican Ocean Systems, the company would celebrate employees’ 25th anniversary with a contribution to a vacation of the employee’s choice.
“By the time I got to 25 years, they weren’t doing that anymore,” Beardsley said. “But I got a nice party out of it.”
For Waagen, one standout memory was when her daughter was involved in an accident in the mid-’80s where she scratched her cornea, and had to have it replaced. Waagen said that the company got her a driver so she didn’t have to drive to the hospital, and arranged to get her daughter to Massachusetts Eye and Ear.
“It’s just one of those things that sticks with you,” Waagen said.
Waagen said she also feels for those who are still with the company and may not know what’s coming next.
She said she knows a couple who’ve been together for 25 years that met at the company, and still work there.
“So it’s going to affect a lot of people,” Waagen said.
In response to news of the site's closing, the Marion Selectmen said that looking out for those in the community who will lose their jobs is among the town’s top priorities.
Also on officials’ minds with the closure looming: What’s going to happen to the site once Lockheed Martin leaves?
Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary Polaris, an electronics manufacturer, employ around 400 people — the most of any employer in Marion, according to mass.gov.
“They’re gonna be hard to replace,” Selectman John Waterman said.
The jobs at the Marion site will be relocated to other Lockheed Martin locations. According to the company, most employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate or, if possible, work remotely.
The Marion location began as Francis Associates, an electrical-mechanical engineering firm founded by brothers Tim and Sam Francis, alongside Phil Tabor, in 1940. In 1981, the company went public as Sippican Ocean Systems, Inc., before being acquired by Lockheed Martin in 2004.
Waterman added that he hopes the site remains a commercial development and continues to contribute to the town’s commercial tax base — as most of Marion’s tax revenue comes from property taxes.
The selectman also said that, while he’s unsure how many of Lockheed Martin’s employees actually live in Marion, he thinks losing the employer could contribute to Marion becoming more and more of a seasonal community.
“This will accelerate that trend,” the Selectman said.
Beardsley said he attributes some of the coming closing to a realization that remote work is accessible for a lot of workers.
“I think that, like all companies, they learned they don’t need a lot of office space anymore,” he said.
But even after it’s gone, memories of Christmas parties, cookouts, road races and fishing trips will last.
“It was a great place to work in the early days,” Beardsley said.