Rumors about Titan Tire plant layoffs persist

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Natchez Mayor Hank Smith said Wednesday that Titan Tire CEO Morry Taylor assured him during a Monday visit that the company would not remove equipment from its Natchez plant.

&uot;He told me no, that they were not taking equipment out of the plant,&uot; Smith said.

That is despite rumors that Titan is going to move much of the Natchez plant’s equipment to its plant in Brownsville, Texas, and lay off at least 40 percent of the Natchez factory’s workers.

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Plant Manager Dave Fines would not confirm or deny such rumors, referring all calls to Taylor, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Leo &uot;T-Bone&uot; Bradley – president of Steelworkers Local 303L, which has been on strike from Titan of Natchez since September 1998 – would not comment. And Smith said Wednesday that he has not heard any rumors of layoffs.

&uot;I&160;didn’t ask (Taylor) about that because I didn’t have any reason to believe that Titan would (lay off workers),&uot;&160;Smith said. &uot;Last I&160;heard, they had about 340 people working over there.

&uot;I&160;don’t want to see anyone lose their jobs, (and) if half of those people were to lose their jobs, that would be a tremendous blow to our town.&uot;

Smith said Taylor’s comments were made during a routine visit to the mayor’s office. Taylor usually visits whenever he is in town, he added.

Staff members at the Brownsville Herald, the Texas town’s daily newspaper, said Wednesday night that they had also not heard of the possibility of Titan moving equipment or laying off workers.

Titan bought the assets of the plant’s former owner, Condere, in September 1998, more than a year after Condere went bankrupt. Titan International, parent company of Titan Tire, manufactures wheel and tire systems for off-highway equipment used in agriculture, construction, mining, military and recreation.

For the nine months ending Sept. 30, the company’s sales fell 5 percent to $429.7 million. Net income totaled $12.5 million, compared with a loss of $5.5 million.

Sales reflected the sale of Titan’s lawn and garden and ATV divisions. Net income reflected a $38.7 million gain on the sale of inventory and plants to Carlisle Tire and Wheel Co.