Collins & Aikman employees to face layoffs, possible closure - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Collins & Aikman employees to face layoffs, possible closure

December 28, 2006

Americus-  The new year will bring layoff notices for a significant number of Collins and Aikman employees in Americus. Cutbacks in the automotive and manufacturing industries sent the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  While 14 of the company's 45 plants will be sold, the Americus plant isn't among them. Without a buyer, the plant may close next year.

A skeleton crew continues to work the Christmas break at Collins and Aikman. Unfortunately that will also be the case after the first of the year. David Youngman, Vice President of Corporate Communications says layoff notices are being prepared for a significant number of the company's 330 workers, but couldn't say exactly how many will be laid off.

"We're swimming against the stream right now, manufacturing as a whole is down in the United States, this is a company that is one of our largest employers, one of our best paying employers," said David Garriga, Americus Sumter County Chamber of Commerce President. 

One of the company's vendors removed equipment from the plant Friday, transferring business elsewhere. Employees who wouldn't go on camera say there's been talk of layoffs, but no one's been notified yet. The Sumter County Chamber of Commerce is assisting in the search for a new owner.

"It's difficult to try to find new manufacturing of any type and then to rehab a plant that's currently existing in that specialized area may be even more difficult but certainly we will do from a chamber standpoint whatever we can do to support keeping that plant viable," said Brad Lafevers, Americus Sumter County Chamber of Commerce Chairman.

Manufacturing jobs employ nearly 20 percent of Sumter County's workers. Nationwide the industry declined 11 percent this year, making finding a new buyer for the plant or jobs for the 330 that work there difficult.

"We're in a part of the state where our unemployment is higher than we'd like for it to be certainly high against state numbers, so we're not overly burdened with jobs in the whole region," said Lafevers.

 The chamber is hopeful laid off Collins and Aikman employees may find employment in Crisp County and commute, because finding a new buyer quickly isn't likely to happen.

"It will take an entire community to overcome this difficulty," said Garriga.

Collins and Aikman leaders wouldn't say when the company might close, just if a buyer can't be found, they'll have no choice.

The Americus company produces plastic molds to make plastic bumpers and other vehicle accessories.

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