Auto parts maker BCS Access Business Systems U.S. will lay off 123 employees by the end of the year and permanently close its plant in Winona, the company told the state this week.

The workers will lose their jobs in the second half of the year. The plant, which has operated in Winona since 2018, makes keyless entry parts for automobiles, the company said.

The layoffs will affect workers only in the manufacturing plant, which is known as BCS Automotive Interface Solutions. Workers at BCS's nearby engineering facility are not expected to be affected by the downsizing, said Aaron MacLennan, the plant's manager.

Employees were notified Tuesday, MacLennan said. An unknown number of affected workers are represented by the United Auto Workers Local 958. Union officials could not be reached for comment.

He declined to say what led to the downsizing.

The company filed what's called a WARN notice this week with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) about the layoffs and closure.

Winona Community Development Director Lucy McMartin said BCS was affected by the interrupted economic cycles during the pandemic and that the city had been working with them.

A plant closed in Auburn, N.Y., in 2022, resulting in some improvements and job gains to the Winona factory.

Initially "BCS had anticipated job growth in Winona. But since that time there has been a decrease in employment," McMartin said. "Our understanding is that a number of current automotive programs were coming to the end of production and declines in employment during 2023 were made."

Winona Development Coordinator Nick Larson said city officials were recently informed by BCS that changes would be coming but were not informed what those changes would be.

City officials did not learn about the layoffs until being contacted by the Star Tribune Wednesday.

Larson noted the plant closure was not welcome news but the town should be able to absorb the job losses easily since many employers are hungry to add workers. Fastenal, Winona State University, Winona Health and plastics manufacturer RTP Co. are among the largest employers in town and most have job openings, he said.

"Our unemployment rate is 2.3%. And our businesses [range from] manufacturers to downtown retailers and service providers. Everybody is looking for employees," Larson said. "So {affected BCS ] employees should be able to find a new place of employment."

Because the BCS factory makes car parts that trade on the international market, laid off workers will soon receive some unexpected aid in their hunt for a new career.

"Due to potential trade implications, Minnesota's Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance has filed a trade act petition with the U.S. Department of Labor" that should result in retraining and other assistance being offered to laid off workers, state officials said in announcing the layoffs.

Minnesota DEED has assigned two specialists to assist affected employees.

BCS' layoffs are sizable for Winona, a city of roughly 26,000 in southeast Minnesota. The FedEx Freight operation laid off 30 workers in October there as well.