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.

Rumors that a closure was coming intensified at the end of the summer. In August, Whirlpool said that low demand for its products and the recession has prompted "a study of options" for the plant.

Low demand and a shift in production to a plant in Mexico had already chipped away at employment, which stood at more than 4,000 workers in 2007, making it the state's ninth largest employer that year.

Deck said the community business leaders have been preparing for the plant's closure.

"For the better part of this year, there has been talk of it, and community leaders have been discussing how to deal with it," she said. "If there's any silver lining to something like this, it's that at least the community wasn't caught flat-footed."

Whirlpool purchased what was then the Norge Refrigeration plant in Fort Smith in 1966. It remained one of the region's key employers despite hundreds of layoffs in recent years.

The plant property, at 6400 Jenny Lind Road, was appraised this year at $28 million, with the 145-acre parcel valued at $872,500, and improvements valued at $27.5 million.

Whirlpool is scheduled to release third-quarter earnings before the market opens on Friday.

(Paul Gatling and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)



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