Whirlpool studying ‘options’ for Fort Smith plant

Officials with Whirlpool Corp. have acknowledged a review of the Fort Smith refrigeration plant is underway, a change from previous denials that any significant changes were under consideration for the plant.

Two sources told The City Wire on Monday (Aug. 22) that two companies — possibly divisions within Whirlpool Corp. — have been or will soon be at the Fort Smith plant to bid on the equipment used to produce trash compactors and built-in refrigerators (BIR). The sources independently verified the move is a clear indication the lines are leaving the Fort Smith plant, leaving only side-by-side refrigerator production at the large manufacturing facility.

“Because we’d only be producing them (side-by-side refrigerators), we were told that those (side-by-side) units were in decline and that, and this is exactly what was written, ‘plant closure was certain,’” a source told The City Wire.

Whirlpool provided this comment when asked about the report of trash compactor and BIR lines being moved: "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. 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."

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool made production cuts and layoffs causing employment in Fort Smith to drop from about 4,600 in early 2006 to less than around 1,100 today. In 2010, the company cut about 850 jobs at its Fort Smith operation, which left the employee count at 1,020 hourly and 110 salaried workers at the end of November.

In late July, the company confirmed the reduction of 65 jobs, pushing employment to an estimated 950 hourly and about 85 salaried workers. Whirlpool employees in mid-August reported that another 300 job cuts are planned for January 2012. Whirlpool officials would only confirm 250 hourly and 20 salaried job cuts are being planned.

One source said the January job reduction may instead occur around mid-November.

Whirlpool noted in its second quarter earnings report that the company’s U.S. appliance shipments would decline by 1%-2% in 2011. The previous guidance was that U.S. shipments in 2011 would increase by as much as 3%.

Al Holaday, a former manager at Whirlpool’s plant and now the vice president of North American Manufacturing for Whirlpool, is in Fort Smith today (Aug. 23) and is expected to meet with senior plant management to discuss the future of Fort Smith operations. Whirlpool officials denied a request to briefly speak with Holaday during his time in Fort Smith.

A source who is an employee at the Fort Smith plant said morale is low because of the uncertainty.

“This is important to a lot of people here in this community. The people working here and in other plants in the area making parts for Whirlpool, they need to know this ... so they can get to planning for what they might have to do next. I think it’s kind of crappy for Whirlpool to be knowing this and not sharing it with the community,” the source noted.


Paul Harvel, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he has not heard anything from Whirlpool about consideration of a plant review or plant closure. However, he plans to contact company officials.

“I’m going to make another run at them and visit with them,” Harvel said.

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Goodbye Whirlpool

Hope Mexico treats you well until wages rise and you move to Nicaragua or Honduras 40 years from now. What are the odds another manufacturer can be recruited to fill the factory or do these derelict plants typically sit empty until someone bulldozes it to the ground? Is the Evansville plant rusting away or being used? Good luck Harvel, AEDC and the employees of Whirlpool Fort Smith.

Evansville plant

Nevermind, found an article about the redevelopment work going on at the Evansville plant: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2011/apr/01/kunkel-group-purchases-majority-former-whirlpool-p/ Only hope someone will step up and make a similar investment to redevelop the Fort Smith plant when the time comes. Better start lining out ideas and plans now.

Was I mistaken or did the

Was I mistaken or did the Mayor of Fort Smith not say a week or so ago that "Whirlpool will not close in July." I would have expected an honest answer from him. Not only has the man lost my confidence, he's lost my vote. My husband is a Whirlpool employee and he had to find out through rumor what the City Wire had in print today. SHAMEFUL!

American consumers are to blame

It's not like the mayor is making the decisions for Whirlpool or has any idea what decsions are being made. High level salaried personel at the plant aren't aware of what's going on so why would you expect a retiree to have knowledge? The jobs have moved to Mexico. You can't blame the mayor or even the company for that. NAFTA allowed products to be built cheaper in Mexico and everyone knows that Americans want cheaper and cheaper products. If anything blame consumers for buying the cheaper product vs. made in America. Whirlpool was the LAST major American refrigeration manufacturer to move to Mexico but they really had no choice. They save approximately $56 MILLION a year in labor on the 3500 jobs already moved from Fort Smith. It's a no brainer from the business/investor perspective.

It's a vicious cycle....

Yes, Americans want cheaper and cheaper prices, but I think it's due to their real wages flatlining or decreasing, little job security, loss of home equity, loss of savings, uncertainty about future Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits, high cost of medical care, etc. What came first, the chicken or the egg? I think that hard-pressed Americans are just trying their best to deal with all the economic pummeling while keeping their heads above water. Unfortunately, it accelerates the movement of jobs overseas. Thank God that Chinese workers will be making 65% of American wages for similar positions by 2015...maybe soon American workers will be a cheap alternative.

W.P. is to Blame,simple as that

While whirlpool is moving operations to mexico,they are not ''THE LAST AMERICAN MANUFACTURER " to move operations there.General Electric still makes refrigerators here and G.E.is investing in their operations here in the U.S. On Oct. 18th ,2010 General Electric announced 432 million to be invested in the Louisville plant & refrigeration lines added,161 million for the Bloomington Ind. refrigerator plant,43 million for the Decatur Ala. Refrigerator plant.So can we blame Whirlpool ?? You Bet and I would say as an expert on American Made Appliances,Feel Free To Buy American-G.E./Hotpoint made appliances {Except for the top load washer} !!! Another Big Lie out there from the Whirlpool folks is The Maytag Washer is no more ,the new ones are just a whirlpool machine with a Maytag name .As a matter of fact you never really know what you are getting anymore since the American Appliance Industry which once had many Manufacturer's is down to the Big 3 ,W.P. -G.E. & Frigidaire which is run by Electrolux ,What happens if our Big 3 Auto people take whirlpools lead ??? For now Buy G.E. if you want American & stay away from Kenmore since most are of whirlpool origin,Just my opinion.

NAFTA is to blame, not Whirlpool

Whirlpool was the last to enter production in Mexico. Meaning the other major manufacturers were already producing refrigerators in Mexico when Whirlpool built it's first refrigeration plant in Mexico. They were the last to get started in Mexico. Whirlpool still invests ($300 Million last year) and makes refrigerators and other appliances in the US. Amana, Iowa; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Cleveland, Tennessee; Ohio (Clyde, Findlay, Greenville, Marion and Ottawa). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703467004575463742398774102.html As an expert, I assume you know Whirlpool lost the Kenmore refrigeration contract a couple years back to LG.

Amana and Ft Smith are the

Amana and Ft Smith are the ONLY refrigeration plants in America the other plants make all the other appliances, refrigeration is the the only appliances made in Mexico. We still make Kenmore products also. "Whirlpool still invests ($300 Million last year) and makes refrigerators and other appliances in the US. Amana, Iowa; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Cleveland, Tennessee; Ohio (Clyde, Findlay, Greenville, Marion and Ottawa). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870346700457546374239877410... As an expert, I assume you know Whirlpool lost the Kenmore refrigeration contract a couple years back to LG"

NAFTA is to Blame?

So it is ok for the USA to require that all other countires only buy goods and services from the USA? That is an interesting premise when you consider the USA only represents about 5-6% of the worlds population. Which means 95% of our customers do not live in the USA.

That is not what NAFTA does!

That is not what NAFTA does! NAFTA has allowed production to move outside the US without facing tarrifs when the products enter the US. Had NAFTA not taken place almost all of the manufacturing that has gone to Mexico would still be in the US. Before NAFTA we had a trade surplus with Mexico (US exported more to Mexico than it imported from Mexico) but after NAFTA the US has a huge trade deficit with Mexico (US imports more from Mexico than it exports to Mexico). NAFTA has greatly hurt the manufacturing sector in America while greatly helping the manufacturing sector in Mexico. We are outsourcing manufacturing and replacing it with unemployment thanks to NAFTA.

NAFTA Works!

Check your facts before you BLOG. http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/factsheets/NAFTA.asp

NAFTA bleeds America of Money & Jobs!

Here are some facts for you: 1994 trade with Mexico: $ 1.349 Billion SURPLUS 1995 trade with Mexico: $15.808 Billion DEFICIT 2010 trade with Mexico: $66.434 Billion DEFICIT Highest deficit before NAFTA: 5.688 Billion Smallest deficit since NAFTA: 14.549 Billion So your report shows we sold some extra soybeans. Big deal! We're losing 50-60 billion a year in total trade with Mexico. That trend didn't start until 1995, NAFTA! We helped farmers kill manufacturing. http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c2010.html

Tariff rate

Any idea what the tariff rate was on Mexican made goods prior to NAFTA? Oh yeah, it was zero. It lowered Mexican tariffs and made trade the movement of goods easier between the two countries.

"High level salaried

"High level salaried personel at the plant aren't aware of what's going on so why would you expect a retiree to have knowledge?" High level salary people ie. DVP and Director's are aware and certainly part of the discussion on what is going on but will not acknowledge or discuss this until final decisions are made

Mayor shouldn't know

So why does anyone expect the mayor to know what is going on? He doesn't work there anymore and wasn't that high in management when he did. He is retired.

Sandy was a Human Resource

Sandy was a Human Resource Manager at Whirlpool and yes that's high up just below the HR Director and Sandy is and was then very involved and connected politically. "So why does anyone expect the mayor to know what is going on? He doesn't work there anymore and wasn't that high in management when he did. He is retired."

Did I Miss Something?

The article states that the Ft. Smith plant is under review for considered changes. Where do you get that the plant closed in July????


Like we dident see this coming. I left in 07 the best move i have ever MADE..............

My thoughts

I am at the point whre in the nex yearI'll have to purchase all new major appolicance for my house. i will never buy a Whirlppool product again. If I have to pay more for a GE or another then I'll save a bit more to buy this one. I encourage everyone to do the same. One person isn't going to be much, but we should spread the idea.

Prices are falling, historically

Great idea! Let's help kill of Whirlpool, which still has plants in the US, because they are moving SOME production to Mexico. While we are at it, let's help GE, a company that pays NO TAXES while moving jobs to China. Where's the common sense in that?

Kill W.P. -no that;s not my Intent-Reward G.E. Yes

And help Balance the power that the Whirlpool corp. has years ago a study was done that found 60 % of all U.S. households had Kenmore Appliances in them.Most Kenmore brand appliances were W.P. Built ,now W.P. Buys Maytag who had earlier bought Magic Chef,Amana-Speed Queen ect... ect... it doesn't take much to see that W.P. needs a little competition,And yes if they kill off a plant in my hometown that has had nothing but loyal employees over the year's -I'm gonna buy a different Brand.The type of additions that G.E. is making to the refrigeration plants they have here in the U.S. ,the technology they are putting in those plants will make it next to impossible for them to pick up and go elsewhere in the near future.There will be fewer line employees more robotics yes,but those plants will continue to employ Americans for years to come.

Lower Prices?

Since Whirlpool has started moving production to Mexico, I've noticed no lowering in their prices to reflect the labor cost savings. If you're seeing lower costs on Whirlpool products, let me know where you're seeing them.

Prices are falling, historically

The prices on all white goods (appliances) have been falling for years. You wouldn't notice a big price decrease from last year to this year, but every year all manufacturers are introducing cheaper models. Today you can buy a brand new Whirlpool SxS for around $600 bucks. Five years ago the bottom end was around $750. So you get about $30 bucks a year in price reduction. Appliance manufacturers have too much production capacity and are fighting for volume.