Business, political leaders react to Whirlpool news

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 102 views 

The news that Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. will close its Fort Smith plant after more than 45 years of operation drew several comments from business and political leaders.

The loss of the about 1,000 Whirlpool jobs in Fort Smith will result in the overall loss of 1,550 jobs and a labor income reduction of $56.9 million, according to an economic impact model prepared by Gregory Hamilton, senior research economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for The City Wire.

Gov. Mike Beebe
“While this is a sad day, we won’t let this news hold back Fort Smith’s prospects for the future.  Whirlpool has made it clear that this decision is based solely on economic factors, and does not reflect on the high quality of Fort Smith’s manufacturing workforce.   Our efforts will begin immediately to replace these jobs and get these hundreds of skilled employees back to work once Whirlpool leaves.”

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
“This announcement is disappointing news for employees, the community and local businesses that have developed a strong working relationship with Whirlpool. The Congressional delegation, the Governor and local officials have been actively working to maintain this Fort Smith facility. We have gone to great lengths to try to meet the requests of the company and identify how we can continue to make this location a good business decision for Whirlpool. I am frustrated by this outcome.”

Ron Embree, president, RiverBend Industries (Whirlpool vendor based in Fort Smith)
“It’s not totally unexpected, but still you have to pick yourself off the floor when you hear it become official. … We have every intention of keeping our doors open and keeping people employed and being a manufacturing operation in Fort Smith. We’ll get by. It will be tough for a little while, but we’ll get by. … It will be tough, a lot tougher, for a lot of smaller companies.”

Arkansas Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith
“Today is a dark day for our Region and the people and families who have suffered as a result of Whirlpool’s decision to discontinue their operations here. I know that state and local officials did all they could to encourage Whirlpool to stay, but apparently, it just wasn’t a part of the company’s long term strategy or vision, and I am disappointed that they have chosen this direction. This continues to reinforce my beliefs that we simply must create in Arkansas the most competitive environment for business, including manufacturing, in terms of policy and regulations to encourage investment, growth and job creation. This announcement is a dull reminder that we live and operate in a global economy and must continue to identify measures that will enable us and future generations to prosper.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott
“I wish today’s news had been better. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the river valley region who will be affected by today’s announcement. I had been working with Whirlpool and had hoped they would come to a different decision. But, now we must look forward. The people in Fort Smith and all throughout the river valley are dedicated, hardworking people and I will do everything I can to help displaced workers and their families and to bring new businesses and new jobs into the region.”

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders
“Manufacturing has, for many years, been an important part of Fort Smith’s economy. We will continue to do everything we can to retain our diverse manufacturing base, but today’s announcement underscores the importance of developing a broader base of employment opportunities.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers
“I am disappointed with Whirlpool’s announcement, and my heart goes out to the employees and their families. Despite the news, I consider the Fort Smith region one of America’s most attractive areas for economic development. It is ideally situated with incredible infrastructure and a quality of life second to none in the country. With a qualified workforce and the supporting institutions, I am confident we’ll find another corporate partner who believes in Fort Smith and the enormous opportunities it offers.”