No word on future for Titan

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 3, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Titan Tire Chief Executive Officer Morry Taylor still is not saying what his plans are for Titan’s Natchez plant, which shut down production in April 2001.

That month, Titan scaled back its Natchez workforce from 230 workers to about 12 &045; mostly maintenance staff &045; due to economic factors.

Orders for rubber were cancelled, and the plant was put on &uot;stand-by mode,&uot; according to Taylor.

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In December, more than 70 percent of Local 303L members voted to approve a tentative agreement with Titan, ending their more than three-year strike from Titan’s Natchez plant.

Under the tentative agreement, Titan officials agreed that they would not declare its Natchez plant to be shut down prior to Sept. 1, 2002.

As of Friday, Taylor said he had still not decided what the plant’s future will be and did not know when that decision could be made. But Taylor said economic factors will guide his decision &045; &uot;same as I’ve always said.&uot;

Taylor has also said that the company’s other plants in Des Moines, Iowa, and Brownsville, Texas, must improve production before the Natchez plant is started up again.

EDA and other local officials have spoken much in recent years about the need for available industrial buildings in order to attract new businesses. The Titan building belongs to the City of Natchez.

But Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority have not been able to contact Taylor about the building’s future.

&uot;I’ve been attempting to get in touch with him,&uot; said EDA Executive Director Mike Ferdinand.

Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said he has tried several times to contact Taylor by telephone and mail to inform him of the area’s federal Renewal Community status, which gives some industries federal tax abatements.

The RC area includes the Titan building, which is located on Kelly Avenue.

&uot;I was hoping it would make some difference&uot; in Taylor’s decision regarding the plant’s future, Smith said.

Leo &uot;T-Bone&uot; Bradley, president of Local 303L, said that as of Friday, he had not heard any new news of the plant, either.

Meanwhile, Steelworkers have filed a petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Orleans, asking the court to force Titan to make payments spelled out in the December 2001 tentative agreement.

The tentative agreement stipulated that the company will pay more than $530,000 to settle National Labor Relations Board charges filed against the company.

Bradley has said the actual number could be closer to $1.3 million.