High gas partly to blame for Ripley plant closure - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Justin Hanson

High gas partly to blame for Ripley plant closure

Siegel Roberts Automotive will close the doors to its South Ripley, Tennessee plant by the end of the year, and Lauderdale County leaders are saying the high price of fuel is partly to blame.

Transport trucks won't be making many more trips to the automotive plant.

"Its devastating when you talk about taking 524 jobs out of the economy here in a town of about 8,000 population," said Ripley Mayor Jon Pavletic.

Siegel Roberts makes parts for large trucks and SUV's. Because fewer people are buying these vehicles, the company has experienced an almost 25 percent decline in business.  

"People aren't buying large trucks with gas prices and the economy the way it is - I think that played a role," said Lisa Hankins, Executive Director for the Lauderdale County Chamber of Commerce.

Company officials said layoffs at the Seigel Roberts plant will begin in July. The layoffs will be done in 4 phases and by December 31, the plant will close, leaving 524 employees without a job.

Lisa Hankins and others are reaching out to affected employees through one-on-one counseling about related job opportunities.

"We've gotta look at this as a door...not just a door closing but a door opening," Hankins said.

The closure comes on the heel of more bad news for Lauderdale County. In April, the county reported an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, the second highest in the state.

Officials said layoffs like this will not help. 

"The cash flow is affected. People just don't have the money to spend if they're not drawing a paycheck," Pavletic said.

Officials are planning a job fair in October for Seigel Roberts employees who are losing their jobs.  The workload from the south plant will be spread out over the company's plants in North Ripley and Newbern.

Click here to e-mail Justin Hanson.

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