Coachmen Fitzgerald plant closes - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Coachmen Fitzgerald plant closes

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

November 21, 2008

FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) - A Fitzgerald business is suspending operations leaving as many as 100 employees without a paycheck during the holidays. Every employee at Coachmen Industries must take a mandatory week without pay next week to help save cash.

Friday the company announced it's selling it's RV business to Forest River, but company officials blame the economic conditions for the suspension and hope to resume production once the economy strengthens.

It's another consequence of the downturn in the economy. Coachmen industries suspended operations in Fitzgerald because they say discretionary spending has basically stopped.

"Everyone is being conservative and consumer confidence is a little down so a lot of things are going on with each house hold and again they're watching what they spend," Coachman V.P. & Georgia Division General Manager Lawton Tinley.

While production has ground to a halt, the parts and service operation which includes 20 employees will remain open. The shutdown affects not only 100 employees, it affects the entire community including Sheryl Gibbs who own Henley's Flooring.

"Coachmen buys carpet from us to put in their homes so it's really affected us, it affects the economy because we're a small business owned," said  Sheryl Gibbs, Henley's Flooring Owner.

Coachmen, a 37-year business partner in the community isn't the only business affected by the economic conditions, six months ago it was Shaw Industries. They hope to reopen after the first of the year, but the damage to the community may already have been done.

"I see people in court almost daily and a lot of it has to do with people who owe child support and they can't find jobs," says Judge Bobby Chasteen of the Cordele Circuit. "Course you have real need when children are in need of assistance but you have people that can't find work so it's very troubling and of course leads to other things, crimes increase."

Coachmen sees this temporary shutdown as a bump in the road and when they economy improves they hope to resume business.

"This industry will come back we know that and we know it's a great vehicle for retirees and in today's population folks are retiring younger, healthier, and with more money than ever before and they want to see America," Tinley said.

But how long that recovery could take is anyone's guess. Coachmen Industry stakeholders will meet next week to discuss the terms of the sale. Forest River is expected to acquire most of Coachmen's RV assets including the brand and product lines.

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