An estimated 59 jobs may leave Fort Smith later this year as Trane moves some production from its Fort Smith plant to an operation in Columbia, S.C.
Trane’s Fort Smith plant, which produces residential air-conditioning systems, now employs 253 hourly and 27 salaried employees, according to Trane spokeswoman Maria Weber.
Weber said “transfer coil production” will move from Fort Smith to Columbia during the third quarter of this year.
“Our Columbia facility is the company’s coil production ‘center of excellence’ and it has a specific focus on quality production of coils for the entire business,” Weber noted. “This transfer will result in the reduction of 59 hourly production jobs by the 3rd quarter of this year. ... The actual number of employees affected could change depending on fluctuations in production levels, attrition and other factors.”
The production shift will further reduce employment at a plant that once employed around 500 in Fort Smith. During 2010, the company cut more than 200 jobs.
The Trane news is yet another unwelcome blow to a regional economy that will face the loss of 1,000 Whirlpool jobs by mid-year. Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. announced Oct. 27 it would close its large Fort Smith operation by mid-2012. Whirlpool employed about 1,000 at the time of the announcement, but had employed around 4,500 in early 2006.
Fort Smith’s manufacturing sector employed an estimated 20,700 in December, unchanged compared to November, but down from 21,000 in December 2010. Employment in the sector is down more than 32% from more than a decade ago when January 2001 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 30,700.