ABB closing gearmotor plant in Clarksville, ends former Baldor presence in the city

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 6,072 views 

Temporary ABB signage covers the Baldor sign at the company's operation in Fort Smith.

ABB, the company which bought Fort Smith-based Baldor Electric, is closing its plant in Clarksville, a move that will eliminate 140 full-time and 30 part-time jobs. It’s the second loss of a former Baldor plant for the principal city of Johnson County.

No set timeline was announced for the plant closure. The company said it will phase out operations and close the plant by the end of 2018. The company said it will continue to make Baldor-Reliance gearmotors during the phase out, but stopped taking orders for the gearmotors on June 1.

“Customer demand for the company’s Baldor-Reliance(R) gearmotors has decreased over time,” the company noted in a May 1 announcement to Clarksville employees. “As a result, the company made the difficult decision to discontinue the Baldor-Reliance(R) gearmotor line and sub-NEMA motors made in Clarksville and phase out operations in Clarksville, Arkansas, where that line is produced, by the end of 2018.”

Tracy Long, vice president-marketing communications for ABB’s U.S. Motors and Generators business, said the company has job openings in its Fort Smith and Ozark operations for Clarksville employees willing or able to make the drive.

“We found that many Clarksville employees live on the east side of town, so they are closer to Russellville than Fort Smith. But we have enough production opportunities openings in Fort Smith and Ozark for those who are interested in driving this direction to work,” Long told Talk Business & Politics.

The company in 2017 moved its gearbox operations from Clarksville to an ABB plant in Belton, S.C.

“They were two separate buildings on the same (Clarksville) campus, so most people may not have noticed,” Long said.

As of April 2018, Johnson County’s unemployment rate was 3.8%, with an estimated 10,015 employed and 395 unemployed, according to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. In 2017, average employment in the county’s manufacturing sector was 2,699, with weekly wages averaging $630. Manufacturing is the largest employment sector in the county.

Zurich, Switzerland-based ABB acquired Baldor Electric Co. in early 2011 in a $4.2 billion deal. In early 2018 ABB announced it was dropping the Baldor name and unifying all properties under the ABB moniker.