CORNING, AR (KAIT) – Residents in Clay County Monday were concerned with the news that L.A. Darling, based in Paragould, announced to employees that 140 people will be laid off starting October 1st. According to Corning Mayor Dewayne Phelan, employees at the plant's Gondola Division were told earlier this month they would be laid off. According to Phelan, the plant was not receiving enough orders to keep up with demand.
"October 1st, Darling is planning to layoff another 130 to 140 people, which would bring their workforce down to somewhere around 30 to 40 people," said Phelan.
L.A. Darling has operated in Clay County for at least the last 30 years, Phelan said. The company manufactures metal store fixtures for retailers across the United States. Phelan said it's important to maintain an optimistic tone despite the negative report from the company.
"They expect orders to come back. They're not moving out any equipment, any machines or something like that. Small orders will continue to be built here in Corning," said Phelan. "They expect orders to come back in within the first quarter of next year."
The company also expects to extend a temporary layoff to 109 employees in the Corning plant. In Piggott, 50 employees are expected to receive extended temporary layoffs. In all, nearly 300 people will be affected by the layoffs.
"The economic impact is going to be so severe for Corning that the loss of residents is another thing we're going to have to look at," said Phelan. "If they find another job, I'm sure they're going to be relocating themselves. To have them move away from Corning with already the loss in population due to this census, that's a big concern."
"I guess my main concern is the fact that there are a lot of companies in northeast Arkansas that are hiring right now. They have a lot of openings, and some of these people that are going to be looking for a job from Darling are some of the key people in Darling," said Phelan.
Region 8 News reached out to representatives with L.A. Darling Monday. Company officials did not respond to an interview request as of this report.
"My dad has worked there for 21 years and he found out about the first of this month and he's just been stressed out. There really ain't no jobs around here," said Garrett Pollard. "He started on the second shift and stayed there for a while and then finally a position came up on first shift and he's been there ever since."
Pollard said his father loved working for L.A. Darling. He said the next few months will be a test.
"He has a pretty good record of working there until the place kicks him out of the door. Never missed a day of work in 21 years," said Garrett. "He's hoping to maybe sit around, draw unemployment, get a part time job and hope they get something back. That's what they're talking about but you never know."
Region 8 News discussed the situation with Barry Sellers, Executive Director of the Corning Area Chamber of Commerce. He said the city is working on three projects, which could bring several jobs to Clay County. Sellers did not elaborate on the projects as not to harm future negotiations.
Phelan said employees who are laid off can attend a job fair later this year. If you're interested in the job fair, contact the city at 857-6001. Phelan also said those employees can work with the Arkansas Workforce Center to assist them in finding a new job.
Garrett said he's sorry for his father.
"It's kind of hard to just jump into a new job, especially when all of this hits. It's just crazy. Nobody knows what they're going to do," said Garrett. "It's difficult around here because for us, it's either drive to Poplar Bluff or Paragould or Jonesboro or something like that. You're talking about an hour drive just to go to work."