St. Francis County Plant Closing, 142 May Be Jobless

FEBRUARY 3, 2004 -- Posted at:11:30pm

COLT, AR - The announcement of the closure of RBX Industries in St. Francis County on Monday means more than 140 workers may not have a job by mid-April.

"I hired in January 31st, 1968, and last Saturday, the 31st, give me 36 years with the company," said Bill Ashcraft, Plant Supervisor.

The plant in Colt is the only place Ashcraft has ever worked. Employees had a feeling it was coming, but that hasn't made the decision to close down production any easier to handle.

"It was kind of depressing, really depressing," described Ashcraft, "because, you, you get to thinking about it; it's raised me and my wife and family, and i've got a boy that works here. It's raised my grandkids."

Gary Morris, a worker in the maintenance department said, "The meeting was not a huge surprise, simply because the rumors, you know, you're gonna get that in plants, but it put a finality to it."

Morris has worked at the facility for 25 years. Many of those hours were spent alongside his mother. Employees produce foam and rubber products, such as the seals on car doors and grips on excercise equipment.

"It's been a good company. It's just this time of year the orders are slow and through the months it's been coming," explained Morris.

The workforce has decreased from 300 to 142 over the last year. If the company does close for good, some workers will continue receiving state funding for job training and education. Managers are being supportive in other ways.

Morris said, "If you come across a good job, they will take care of you with recommendations and help you out with resumes."

Both men are optimistic. They said a group of people were at the facility on Tuesday and seemed interested in making a purchase. An official at the company's headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia said several other businesses have looked; many in the last four or five days.

"Everyone has got the upbeat that we think we're gonna get sold, you know, and it'll be an awful dissappointment if we don't," admitted Ashcraft.

Workers in this area of Northeast Arkansas are being hit hard right now. Across the Cross County line in Wynne, PolyOne Corporation managers announced in October their plant would be closing. About 125 employees were terminated on or before January 9th.