1987: RCA announces closure of east side record plant

The announcement meant 700 workers would be out of work
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 05:00:37-05

INDIANAPOLIS — RCA / Ariola workers had to face the music in February 1987 when company officials announced the record stamping plant on East 30th Street would cease operations. The announcement meant 700 workers would soon be out of a job.

The plant, which began pressing records in 1939, was the largest of three plants operated by RCA. However demand for vinyl records had plummeted in the mid 1980s thanks to the rise in popularity of cassette tapes and compact discs.

Former WRTV reporter Angela Cain talked with customers about changing preferences at an area music store on Feb. 6, 1987.

“I find CDs to be much more convenient,” said one customer. “CDs are higher priced, but I think it’s worth it in terms of the quality of the sound.”

That customer wasn’t the only one singing a different tune.

Former WRTV Reporter Gerry Dick took an in-depth look at the compact disc frenzy just a few months before the closure was announced.

Dick spoke with workers about the plant closure on Feb. 6, 1987.

“I haven’t had to look for a job in 20 years,” RCA employee Lonnie Compton said.

While the shutdown wasn’t music to anyone’s ears, it was a familiar song on the east side.

The RCA plant closing was one of several gloomy economic stories near the Shadeland Avenue corridor.

Western Electric shuttered its east side operations a few years earlier and just months after the RCA announcement, Chrysler announced the closure of its electrical components plant which sat across from the RCA plant.

The closures were a broken record of sorts for manufacturing on the city’s east side. Mayor Bill Hudnut said Indianapolis was caught between the industrial and information ages.

“We’ve got to recognize that a lot of the old blue-collar jobs are disappearing never to come back,” Hudnut said. “We have an obligation as a society and as a government to the people who are being laid off, who have 20-25 years in at a company, and need something else for their families.”

Federal dollars were allotted for job retraining programs, but the outlook for many workers was bleak.

“I know people laid off before me that still haven’t found a job,” Greg Posley said. “It doesn’t look at all promising.”

The plant shut down in January 1988.