Titan Tire scales back workforce

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2001

As of Monday, Titan Tire’s Kelly Avenue plant will scale back to 12 to 20 workers due to economic factors, Titan CEO Morry Taylor said late Wednesday afternoon.

On Feb. 15 Taylor announced that the plant, which employed about 230 workers, would lay off all but 60 workers by mid-April.

After that point, he said, the plant would not build tires but would only mix rubber until the economy improved. That rubber was to be used to build tires at Titan’s Brownsville and Des Moines plants.

But Wednesday, Taylor said orders for rubber had been cancelled, forcing the company to put its Natchez plant on what he called &uot;standby mode.&uot; That means the plant will be scaled back to only maintenance workers until the economy improves. But contrary to recent rumors, Titan is not closing the plant, Taylor said.

&uot;I hope this (cutback) lasts as short as possible, but there’s no telling when the economy will pick up,&uot;&160;Taylor said during a brief visit to the Natchez plant Wednesday afternoon. &uot;I know it is a hardship for the people (at the plant) and a hardship for the community.&uot;

Meanwhile, remaining workers will conduct maintenance and repair at the plant, Taylor said.

Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said he did not hear news of the Titan cutbacks until he returned Wednesday evening from meetings in Jackson.

Given Ethyl Petroleum Additives’ announcement Tuesday that it would close by the end of May, leaving 40 people out of work, Smith admitted Titan’s announcement is sobering news for the area’s economy.

&uot;The only thing we can hope is that what (Taylor) is saying is true, that this is just a temporary thing, and that they will be back up as soon as the economy improves,&uot;&160;Smith said.

Smith said plant Manager Dave Fines told him Wednesday evening the plant might begin producing tires again in as little as six to nine months. Smith noted layoffs are not unique to Titan. &uot;The industry as a whole is having problems,&uot; Smith said.

An impending recession is also forcing other manufacturers to lay off employees throughout the nation.

Other Natchez and Adams County officials were also surprised by Titan’s Wednesday announcement, although some had heard rumors that the plant would close altogether.

Adams County Supervisor Virginia Salmon called the news &uot;pretty tough,&uot; adding that &uot;it’s disappointing for our area.&uot;

&uot;The local economy is a big concern of mine. We can’t afford to lose the industries we have now, even as we look for new ones,&uot; Supervisor Lynwood Easterling said. But Easterling would not comment further, saying he did not have enough information about Titan’s plans to do so.

&uot;I can’t second-guess someone else’s business decision,&uot; said Natchez Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 4 Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot;&160;West. &uot;I’m more concerned with the economy as a whole. We need to keep a positive outlook and keep on trying&uot; to bring more industries into the area, he said.

Taylor said he attempted to call Smith’s office to set up a meeting to tell local officials of Titan’s plans but was told Smith was in Jackson.

Titan’s Natchez plant also laid off about 50 employees in early January.