Oreck moves headquarters out of Louisiana

Published 6:27 am Monday, August 18, 2008

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Citing high fuel prices and a need to centralize operations, Oreck Corp. has moved its corporate headquarters to Nashville, Tenn.

Tom Oreck, CEO of the vacuum manufacturing company, said the move will see 60 people working in Nashville and the staff in Harahan reduced from 70 to 10.

“Frankly, we considered relocating to China altogether, although we discarded that option,” Oreck said. “Although we’ve always been connected to New Orleans, with all of the increased costs related to transportation, we wanted to have our manufacturing, our call center and our headquarters in close proximity.”

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Shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Oreck moved its manufacturing plant from Long Beach, Miss., to Cookeville, Tenn., 80 miles east of Nashville.

Jefferson Parish officials, who had worked to retain the Oreck headquarters in Louisiana for more than a decade, were disappointed by the move.

“We made a big push to keep their back office here, but they decided to consolidate their operations in Tennessee,” Jefferson Parish Councilman John Young said. “Call it another casualty of Katrina.”

Dottie Stephenson, with Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission’s business retention program, began working with Oreck Corp. in 1998, immediately after the company opened a manufacturing plant in Long Beach, Miss.

The plant was considered a coup for Louisiana’s Gulf Coast neighbor, so much so that when then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco lured Mississippi’s economic development secretary, Mike Olivier, to her administration, she announced the decision in front of Oreck’s Harahan building.

In the intervening decade, Stephenson said, Jefferson Parish was aggressive about retaining Oreck. A parking ban on Plantation Road, where the company’s headquarters were, was lifted when it inconvenienced the vacuum manufacturer. An incumbent worker training program implemented in 2001 offered the manufacturer 100 skilled laborers.