Closure of Local Darling Plant Announced
Officials with the L.A. Darling Company gathered employees of the Piggott facility on Thursday, Feb. 19, and announced the local plant will be closing. General Manager Jackie Elliott met with the approximately 70 local workers and informed them the factory will close May 15, 2015.
The company first announced they were coming to Piggott in late September of 1971, and would be utilizing a city-owned building. To facilitate the company a 10,000 square foot addition was approved, as local officials noted long term plans called for a new building in the near future.
City officials reported in late October construction was underway on the expansion, although the effort was delayed and not completed until spring of the following year.
At the time the company also operated the factory in Paragould, which first opened in 1966 and employed some 600 workers.
For the next several years the company continued to grow the local effort, and the new facility was planned in 1974, with construction on the current building beginning late that year. The plant was also the first building in the new Piggott industrial park, which prior to 1974 had been the Dees' family farm.
As the factory construction began city officials also completed the remaining infrastructure for the industrial park, which included the current water tower in that location.
The local factory continued to prosper in the years to come, and in 1983 a 100,000 square foot expansion was began which would effectively double the size of the building. This was completed by early 1984, and the number of employees climbed to over 150.
In 1990 the company boasted 1,350 employees at their facilities in Piggott, Paragould, Corning and Pocahontas. And, in 2006 the company, now a part of the Marmon Group, announced they would be closing one of their other facilities and moving the equipment and jobs to Piggott.
According to Elliott, the changing retail market prompted the closure. "Current market changes, including a decline in the demand for laminated wood store fixtures such as those produced at the Piggott plant has led us to realign our production capabilities," he said of the announcement. "We appreciate the relationship we have had with our employees in Piggott over the decades, and understand the impact of the closure on them, their families and the community. However, the company's actions are a necessary response to changing market conditions."
Mayor Jim Poole addressed the issue during Monday night's meeting of the Piggott City Council, and weighed the local impact. "There will be about 45 permanent jobs affected and five management jobs," Poole said of the closure. "And, some of these 45 jobs they've already told us will be going to the Paragould plant. Now, Darling is not promising this, but the company president says they hope some can be moved there--and they're doing all they can."
Poole indicated there were also 15 jobs affected indirectly, and some temporary positions which will also be affected.
But, Poole also noted the impact on city utilities will be minimal, "the impact of losing them as a customer shouldn't affect us at all because of the low rate we've been giving them. You're looking at only losing about $12,000 of a budget of between two and three million dollars so the effect will not be that much on our electric system."
Mayor Poole noted the city will now look to find an occupant for the building prior to the closure date. "We'll be looking to find somebody to move into the building, and we've already had some people who have called. But, we don't have anything finalized yet that we can announce."
In making the closure announcement, the firm indicated the Governor's Dislocated Worker Task Force, and the Arkansas Department of Workfare Services, would be assisting the affected employees.