The well-publicized last day of operations for the Fort Smith Whirlpool refrigerator plant has arrived.
On Friday (June 29), the last shift will clock out and the company will close its doors.
Whirlpool officially announced in April that it would shutter the Fort Smith facility after nearly 45 years of operations. The plant's employment had fallen in recent years from more than 4,500 to less than 1,000.
KFSM-Channel 5 reports on the closure, noting that Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders was a former Whirlpool employee.
“You don’t necessarily miss the job itself or the jobs you’ve had, you miss seeing a lot of the people, excellent people, an excellent workforce,” says Sanders, who is optimistic that the plant will find a new occupant.
Our content partner, The City Wire, also has a great feature about a long-time Whirlpool employee, Tamara Fitzpatrick, who
made the transition years ago to a new career.
She recalls the glory days of the plant when employment and production was humming and company picnics resembled a county fairground.
“Everyone, who’s been around Fort Smith for a while, remembers those picnics. It was like the Fair, with rides and games,” Fitzpatrick said. “From when I was a kid, I could remember thinking, ‘Man, you’re going to get ice cream and sno-cones and Jerry Neel’s Barbecue will be there catering.’ It was such a huge event.”