Whirlpool supplier jobs in jeopardy at Van Buren plant

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 71 views 

The 30 remaining employees at Tech Group Industries in Van Buren are working in a “very critical period,” said John Laine, president of the Evansville, Ind.-based company.

Tech Group’s Van Buren plant — located at 1819 S. 28th St., in the Van Buren Industrial Park — produces components for Whirlpool Corp.’s Fort Smith refrigerator plant. At the beginning of 2008, Tech Group employed 60 in Fort Smith, but Laine said employment is down to about 30.

Laine said Whirlpool’s production has “drastically dropped over the last year” from around 5,000 units a day to about 1,700 units a day.

Whirlpool has reduced employment at its Fort Smith plant from about 4,500 in early 2006 to between 1,500-1,000 today.

Laine said the company is closely working with Whirlpool to readjust and retain its supplier relationship.

“Hopefully, that (Tech Group Van Buren plant) can remain a permanent fixture there,” Laine said.

Production cuts at Whirlpool have filtered down to suppliers in the Fort Smith/Van Buren area.

In mid-November, Jarden Plastics Solutions announced the closure of its Fort Smith plant, eliminating 93 jobs. The Greenville, S.C.-based company cited “declining demand” from its largest customer — Whirlpool Corp. — as a reason for the closing. The plant opened in Fort Smith in 1976.

Riverbend Industries, a supplier to Whirlpool, has seen its temporary employment count drop from 120 to about 60 at its Fort Smith plant on Wheeler Road. The company employed about 120 full-time workers in November 2008.