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Sources: Whirlpool closure news expected

Several sources tell The City Wire that Whirlpool will announce today (Oct. 27) the closure of its Fort Smith refrigeration manufacturing plant.

Whirlpool Vice President Jeff Noel is expected to fly to Fort Smith to make the announcement during an afternoon meeting with employees.

Closure of the plant, likely to occur before June 2012, will result in the loss of about 1,000 jobs. The loss of those jobs will result in the estimated loss of another 472 jobs, according to an economic impact analysis conducted by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Whirlpool Spokeswoman Kristine Vernier declined comment on the Thursday meeting.

“We do not comment on rumor or speculation. Whirlpool has a strict policy to discuss business information with our employees first, prior to communicating externally,” Vernier noted in an e-mail statement.

The future of Whirlpool’s Fort Smith refrigerator-production plant has been a cause for concern following the November 2003 announcement by Whirlpool of a global reorganization plan. The news since November 2003 has been troubling, with Whirlpool announcing numerous production cuts and layoffs that has seen employment in Fort Smith drop from about 4,600 in early 2006 to around 1,000 today.

Decline in production in Fort Smith also has resulted in the closure of other operations.

Southern Steel & Wire, which made wire baskets and other refrigerator components for Whirlpool, closed its Fort Smith plant at the end of 2010. That closure resulted in the loss of 117 jobs.

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Fortis Plastics recently informed the city of Fort Smith it would close its plant sometime between Nov. 4 and Nov. 18. The company makes plastic pieces for refrigerator doors. The plant employed about 100 in recent months, but at one time employed as many as 230 in Fort Smith.

The City Wire will update this story later today.
 

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