Whirlpool 'Studying Options' for Fort Smith Plant

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011 2:21 pm  

Whirlpool Corp. of Benton Harbor, Mich., said Tuesday that low demand for its products and recession has prompted "a study of options" for its side-by-suide refrigerator plant at Fort Smith.

"The declining demand for side-by-side refrigeration, and reduced forecasted production volumes for 2012, has prompted the company to initiate a study of options for the Fort Smith location," spokesman Kristine Vernier said in an e-mailed statement. 

"No decisions have been made, however the company will be reviewing asset utilization across its North American refrigeration operations. Current demand for all major appliances is at recessionary levels. 

"We continue to monitor our business, and make adjustments as needed to deliver best cost and best quality to our customers."

The statement comes 11 days after KFSM-TV, Channel 5, in Fort Smith reported that the company would cut nearly 300 hourly and salaried workers at the Fort Smith plant this year.

The CBS affiliate also talked to a Whirpool employee who said he'd been told the plant would completely shutter by July. At the time, Whirlpool said a decision to lay off workers had not been finalized, and Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders said Whirlpool will not shut down in July.

On Tuesday, KFSM cited a report by The City Wire that indicated the plant might be closing two manufacturing lines within the plant, including one that makes trash compactors.

The Fort Smith plant employs about 1,055 people, including 105 salaried and 950 hourly positions. As recently as 2007, Whirlpool was the ninth largest employer in Arkansas, with 4,200 employees in Fort Smith.

The plant has laid off and rehired workers as demand for its products rises and falls. The company has also shifted production of some of its Fort Smith products to a plant in Mexico.



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