216 to lose jobs in Whirpool plant closurePublished 10:20pm Wednesday, June 2, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
The only remaining Whirlpool Corp. plant in southwest Michigan will close its doors, leaving 216 local workers without jobs, the company announced Tuesday.
The Benton Harbor plant, 151 Riverview Drive, will be closed by the end of this year or early next year, according to a press release. Employees at the facility make parts for a 25-year-old washing machine platform.
Jill Saletta, director of external communications for the home appliance manufacturing company, said employees were notified in February of last year that this platform would be “phased out” to make way for new energy efficient platforms produced at a Ohio facility.
Then in May of last year the company told employees at the Benton Harbor plant that maintaining the facility would not be a viable option.
“Unfortunately, no scenario we looked at would allow us to do it in a way that was scalable and that would help us to remain competitive in the evolving, global economy,” Saletta said.
The company does not keep statistics on where employees live, so it could not tell the Star how many of the 216 who are losing their jobs live in Niles.
Saletta added it was simply “a business decision” and commended the Benton Harbor workforce.
“They are a terrific workforce, something we will be proactively sharing as we work with our partners in the community to help to attract other businesses to our region,” she said.
Al Holaday, the vice president of manufacturing operations, said it was a “difficult decision.”
“We are announcing this several months in advance as part of our commitment to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said.
The company will work closely with the local Michigan Works office to help those losing their jobs find work in the area, according to Holaday.
It’s too early to tell what will be done with the building once it closes its doors, Saletta said.
“We remain committed to the Benton Harbor community, and we expect to form a local task force with key business, government and community leaders and others to work with Whirlpool and the State of Michigan on repositioning and repurposing use of the building as part of community strategy,” she said.
Whirlpool employs 67,000 people worldwide with offices in 22 communities in the United States.