Area leaders still hopeful about Titan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 12, 2001

While they were disappointed by Titan Tire’s Wednesday announcement of further layoffs at Titan’s Natchez plant, local officials said Thursday they are holding out hope for the future.

Titan Tire CEO Morry Taylor announced Wednesday that as of Monday, the company’s Natchez plant would scale back to 12 to 20 workers – all maintenance workers – until the economy improves. At last count, the plant had more than 200 workers.

Most local officials said they had heard last week that the plant might experience mass layoffs or close altogether.

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&uot;So it doesn’t come as a surprise, … but it is a blow to the community,&uot; said Natchez Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux.

She said she was particularly disappointed because aldermen recently granted a tax exemption to the company and because the board did not get the chance to meet with Taylor about his plans for the plant.

Alderwoman Sue Stedman said she heard rumors that layoffs would happen but was told by sources she considered reliable that that wasn’t true.

Still, she noted that companies often keep such plans confidential until they have a chance to tell their employees.

Ethyl Petroleum Additives’ announcement Tuesday that it would close by the end of May, and smaller businesses like TCI Tire Center and Bancroft Paper have recently announced that they would close, said Fred Middleton.

Along with those closures, Titan’s layoffs will have a ripple effect throughout the economy, said Middleton, economic development chairman for the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce. &uot;We also had an economic recession in 1985 and 1986, but that entailed only one industry – oil,&uot;&160;Middleton said. &uot;They were depressed times and people lost jobs, but that was in an isolated industry. I don’t know where we’d put this many people to work.&uot;

Still, most officials are holding out hope that Titan’s keeping maintenance employees at work is a sign that the company will eventually hire back laid off workers.

&uot;I hope they will try to rehire at least some of those people,&uot; said Alderman Ricky Gray.

&uot;All we can hope is that once (the tire) industry gets a little better, they can hire them back,&uot; said Bobby Russ, Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce president. &uot;Meanwhile, we’ll go out and look for industry. We will survive.&uot;

If employees aren’t rehired, some Board of Aldermen members said they hope Titan transfer equipment out of the plant, making the plant a less desirable location for prospective industries.

&uot;I hope they don’t start moving equipment,&uot; Gray said. &uot;Industries might not want that building then.&uot;

&uot;We want the plant to be operable when and if Titan leaves, and we want the plant to be in good shape to be looked at by some other investor if that happens,&uot;&160;Arceneaux said.

Most officials said that the only thing they can do now to boost the area’s economy is to continue marketing the area to new industries. &uot;We can’t control world market conditions, but we can continue to work with new prospects,&uot; Stedman said. &uot;Perhaps this is a wakeup call.&uot;

&uot;We’re always trying to attract as many economic developments as possible,&uot; Arceneaux said. &uot;We have to look at providing quality, living wage jobs for our people – or people will move where they can make a living.&uot;

&uot;We want people to know this doesn’t derail the train. We’ll keep pushing to get new business,&uot;&160;said Alderman Jake Middleton. &uot;It doesn’t matter if you own a business or work for one – this affects you.&uot;