US TRADE barriers and a downturn in global steel fabrication orders last week forced contractor Cleveland Bridge to announce plans for a 25% cut in its Darlington-based workforce.
The firm had aimed to increase US turnover to a point where it accounted for 50% of its business, following a management buyout in 2000.
But since then it has won only one major project, the Carquinez suspension bridge in San Francisco.
Nor has work been found elsewhere to replace this or other major contracts on Greece's Rion Antirion bridge and the Wembley stadium in London.
Tough 'Buy America' trade barriers have made it difficult for Cleveland to win more work in the US despite its massive TEA21 highways programme which includes work on many ageing long span bridges (NCE 23 March 2000).
The Buy America rules stipulate that imported prefabricated steel can only be used if equivalent local products are unavailable on contracts worth more than $100,000 (£55,000).
Cleveland will cut 75 white collar staff and 165 manual workers with redundancies taking place between June and October.