Waterville and Winslow manufacturing company Midstate Berkshire has laid off 70 employees, the company announced Thursday.

The Massachusetts-based precision parts manufacturer said in a press release that the layoffs were a reaction to a downturn in the company’s three major markets — oil and gas, power generation and defense.

It’s a move that came as a surprise to the Mid Maine Chamber of Commerce, which had been working with the company to help develop its labor force, chamber President and CEO Kim Lindlof said Thursday night.

The company, which employed 250 workers in the two communities, intends to consolidate its Waterville operation into the Winslow plant, which is at 83 Verti Drive, by the end of the year, according to the release. The layoffs represent about 30 percent of the company’s workforce.

“The market conditions are severe — we’ve seen a 30 percent decrease in our key markets over the past year,” company CEO Duane Pekar said in the release.

“We never want to make these workforce reductions,” Pekar said. “However, in this case, to remain competitive, we have to align ourselves with the current volume. We are making every effort to assist employees with their transition.”

Pekar said he was confident that with the reductions and other cost-cutting measures, the company will be positioned for growth when market conditions improve.

Pekar said his hope is to rehire a portion of the workers laid off, but he didn’t elaborate on how that would happen or if it would affect the consolidation to Winslow.

Lindlof said the chamber had been working with the company on programs to help develop its labor force with things like apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.

“We had no idea this was coming. We’ve been working with them on workforce development issues,” she said.

The company, headquartered in Westfield, Mass., focuses on contract machining, fabrications and assembly services for the aerospace, defense, power generation and oil and gas industries, according to the release.

In January 2014, the company was acquired by a Texas-based private equity firm, Insight Equity Holdings LLC.

Waterville City Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said late Thursday he was surprised to learn about the layoffs. He said the layoffs are hopefully a short-term move, since the economy has been improving as a whole.

“The Waterville area is starting to pick up,” he said. “We’re going in the right direction.”

“One of the things we’re trying to do is actually attract more businesses like that to the area,” he said, noting the area has workers skilled in metal work and manufacturing.

Lindlof said there are other companies in the area that need the skills that Midstate employees have, and her organization could help connect those who were laid off with other employers.

“It’s obviously a setback, but we’re hopeful that if we’re invited to the table with those companies, we’ll be able to connect them with those displaced employees,” said Lindlof.

Staff Writer Peter McGuire contributed to this report.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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