Mayor Calls Walnut Ridge Layoffs ''Major Blow''

January 13, 2003
Posted at: 6:30 p.m. CDT

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. -- The Arkansas General Assembly faces the task of dividing up a budget of $7 billion that already falls short of meeting the needs of various agencies. Since the state's jobless rate is expected to rise, the concept of any sort of a tax increase may be a "hard sell" for Arkansans.

Filling out job applications may be a waist of time at several companies in the state since jobs are being eliminated. Arkansas' jobless rate is up one-tenth of a percent to a rate of 5.1 percent. Although the rate remains well below the national rate of six percent, state officials say some employers will still continue to trim their rosters in the months ahead.

Some companies have already announced anticipated layoffs this year. Including Friday's decision by Bosch Tools to cut its Walnut Ridge workforce by over half. The SB Powertool plant has been in existence in this economically challenged town since 1973. Some 300 workers are now employed there. Sixty of them will be let go immediately, according to plans announced by Bosch Tools, while another 100 will be phased out through 2004.

Walnut Ridge's brand-new mayor, Glen Murphy, says the decision by Bosch Tools is devastating news for his community.

"We can't afford to lose any jobs here in Walnut Ridge because we're striving everyday to find new industry to come into Walnut Ridge so that we can provide jobs to our citizens and this is a major blow to us," Murphy said.

"These people are going to be unemployed and because of that people are going to have to move to other cities and relocate so it's hard on everyone," Marty Spurlock, a Walnut Ridge resident said.

A spokesman from Bosch Tools told KAIT on Friday that many of the 100 jobs to be phased out will be moved to Mexico. Bosch maintains a Heber Springs plant and, according to the company, it will not be affected by any job cuts.