Superior Closure Sparks Northwest Arkansas Efforts To Find Jobs for Workers

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 12:00 am  

There are also two job fairs in the coming months, one on Sept. 24 at Superior and another arranged by the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce in October at the Hammons Center. Local chamber officials Tom Ginn of Bentonville-Bella Vista and Chung Tan of Fayetteville have sent emails to spread the word among their member companies that experienced workers would soon be available.

“Let’s look after our own,” Tan said in an email message.

‘We Take Care of Family’

None of this outreach effort has surprised Raymond Burns, the president and CEO of the Rogers-Lowell chamber. The rivalry between cities may get played up when their high school football teams play, but there is a noticeable all-for-one mindset when it comes to business.

“It’s a lot of anxiety, but northwest Arkansas is family and we take care of family,” Burns said. “We’re here to help each other.”

Burns said he expects many of Superior’s displaced workers to make connections at one of the two job fairs. Many of the workers qualify for the state’s program to provide 18 months of job training for laid-off workers, Burns said.

Turner said financial advisers will attend the September job fair to advise workers how to handle their severance packages and retirement funds that will need to be rolled over or otherwise transferred.

“We’ve had great response from everybody in all the communities,” Turner said. “People were worried when the chips were going to fall.”

There had been whispers in the air that Superior’s plant in Rogers was on the chopping block. When the company announced its second-quarter earnings July 31, one day after announcing the closure, it blamed some of its poor financial results on the plant’s operating struggles.

The plant, built in 1989, can produce 1.75 million wheels annually, the company said, but high scrap rates and low production hurt its financial performance. Rather than spend money to upgrade the facilities, the company will close the plant, shipping some of the $22 million of equipment to the Mexico plant while saving an estimated $15 million in labor costs even after including $2 million to $2.5 million in severance pay.

Turner said the layoffs are scheduled to begin in October and would continue in “buckets of 50” through the end of the year.

Turner, 50, has worked with Superior for eight years in two stretches and doesn’t know what her future is, although she said she would like to stay in the area.

“I’m getting everybody else first; then I’ll figure me out,” Turner said.



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