Whirlpool to Close Fort Smith Plant by Mid-2012; 1,000 to Lose Jobs

by Rob Keys and Lance Turner  on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011 3:00 pm  

Whirlpool's 1.2 million-SF plant at 6400 Jenny Lind Road in Fort Smith.

"The employees at our Fort Smith location are among the best you will find anywhere," Al Holaday, vice president of integrated supply chain and quality, said in the company's statement.

"While Fort Smith certainly has produced top quality products consistent with our longstanding strategy, we have not been cost competitive due to the extremely low production volumes at the facility."

Gov. Mike Beebe said the company has made it clear that its decision was based "solely on economic factors" and doesn't reflect on the quality of its employees.

"Our efforts will begin immediately to replace these jobs and get these hundreds of skilled employees back to work once Whirlpool leaves," he said. 

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders told The Associated Press the city will do all it can to retain its manufacturing base.

"But (Thursday's) announcement underscores the importance of developing a broader base of employment opportunities," Sanders said.

City Administrator Ray Gosack said the city will work to place Whirlpool workers locally.

"During the past several years, approximately 3,500 Whirlpool workers have been laid off, and most have found other employment in the regional economy," Gosack said.

Ripple Effect

Deck said it's likely that Whirlpool's closing will have a "large ripple effect" of other companies shutting their doors.

She said there are other regional companies that directly depend on the Whirlpool plant for business, including Fortis Plastics, which announced last week that it will close next month, affecting 93 workers.

Gregory Hamilton, senior research economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Institute for Economic Advancement, said about 500 regional jobs, plus an additional 80 throughout Arkansas, depend on the Whirlpool plant.

Not A Surprise



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