Batesville company to lay off 60 workers by end of year

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – The national economy may have added 162,000 new jobs in July, but the City of Batesville will soon lose 60.

A dental manufacturing company called Zila, Inc., announced plans to lay off 60 employees beginning October 1.

Zila CEO David Speights said in a statement Thursday that the layoffs are part of the company's restructuring to develop a new business strategy. Speights wrote in the letter, "Zila will continue to invest in the company, in training and the continual improvement of our team and our products."

Independence County officials say Zila will still employ about 70 people at its facilities in Batesville.

"These actions are very difficult and we recognize the impact to our employees and the community," Speights wrote. "Therefore, we are working closely with local and state agencies to assist employees during this transition."

The layoffs are just another example of a job market in Batesville that's seen its ups and downs during the past two years.

"I think it's awful for the community when jobs go away," Barbara Fitzpatrick said. "People move out of town. It's hard for your community."

Fitzpatrick owns Heuer's Family Shoes, which is located across the street from the Zila, Inc., offices on Main Street Batesville. She counts the Zila employees as some of her regular customers, but she expects that to change when the 60 layoffs take effect.

"I think every time you lose the job then people don't have the money to shop, for one thing," Fitzpatrick said. "They have to buy groceries and pay utility bills. They can do without a shoe, so it hurts. It hurts everybody."

She hopes the 60 workers losing their jobs will find new ones locally. The chances of that happening are greater now since a number of businesses have recently expanded and created new jobs.

Larry Jones, the Independence County economic development director, says in 2012 alone, the county's economic development commission awarded $759,450 in economic incentive grants to help six companies grow. He claims that helped create 467 new jobs last year, including 306 at Peco Foods and 150 more at Bad Boy Mowers.

This year, Flowers Baking Company in Batesville plans to add 60 jobs at a new distribution warehouse that the county agreed to build in its new business park.

"We work with every company to maximize their opportunities," Jones said. "It shows why it's so important to have a local effort, a local initiative to track new businesses and to retain those that are here and help them grow."

ConAgra Foods also announced in May 2012 that it would cut the workforce at its Batesville plant by 250 people. The company, however, came back almost a year later with plans to bring back 50 jobs so that it could manufacture a new frozen breakfast meal.

"It's an ebb and flow," Jones said about the local job market and all its fluctuations. "It's like the tide coming in."

Jones says the county's economic development commission even plans to help the 60 Zila workers that are soon-to-be unemployed.

The workers will get to meet with representatives from state workforce services and the governor's office on Wednesday, August 7. They will have a chance to discuss new job opportunities and other training programs that the state offers the recently unemployed.

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