CLARKSDALE, Miss. (Aug. 24, 2009) — Bekaert S.A. plans to close its Clarksdale bead wire plant primarily because of the decline in tire manufacturing in North America.
The closuring is expected to be completed by Oct. 7, according to Rick McWhirt, president of Bekaert's steel cord operations in North America and general manager of steel cord for North America and Latin America.
About 76 employees at the facility will be laid off, he said, adding that the company is providing outplacement services and severance packages to the workers. A few of those employees may be transferred, he indicated.
“This was a very hard decision to make,” Mr. McWhirt said. “We're heartbroken that we had to do it.”
He noted that the overall economic downturn contributed greatly to the closure, but the primary reason was the drop in sales in the tire industry.
In addition to the economy, more imports coming into the U.S. have had a negative impact in North American tire production.
“The economy has been slow to recover,” Mr. McWhirt said. “There has been some slight improvement of late, but not much.”
Bead wire production at the facility will be shifted to Bekaert's plants in Rome, Ga., and Shelbyville, Ky., he said. Both are tire reinforcement steel cord factories.
Bekaert plans to make the production transition from Clarksdale to the two facilities over the next several months, he said, and expects to close the factory in October.
“We're in a ramp-down mode right now,” Mr. McWhirt said.
The Clarksdale closure leaves Bekaert with 14 plants still operating in North America.
The North American operation, a subsidiary of Belgium's N.V. Bekaert S.A., has owned the Clarksdale plant since it purchased Delta Wire Corp. in early 2006. In addition to bead wire, the 27-year-old factory produces some offshoot products.
In addition to tires, steel cord is used for reinforcement on high-pressure hoses, conveyor belt cord, fine cord for transmission belts and other products.