Dustin Fox @GT_DustinFox / Apr 24, 2020 at 6:40 PM
Donna Thornton @GT_DThornton / Apr 24, 2020 at 6:40 PM
The official word Thursday from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that its Gadsden plant will be closing felt like the other shoe dropping, after last year’s layoffs and the buyouts months ago had dropped the workforce to 411 employees.
For those who remember the days when the steel plant and Goodyear operated at full strength, employing thousands, it may feel like losing the last leg of the local economy.
But city and county leaders say they are continuing their work to bring new industry and more jobs to the region, to keep the loss of Goodyear from bringing the area economy to its knees. “Our hearts go out to the families of the Goodyear workers who have lost their jobs due to the imminent closing of the Gadsden plant,” Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton said. He noted that city officials learned of the closure through reported corporate filings and the media’s confirmation. “To date, Goodyear has not notified the City of Gadsden of their permanent closure of Goodyear-Gadsden, but it is clear that Goodyear has taken advantage of a global crisis to send production outside the United States,” Guyton said. Over the last year in conjunction with state leadership, the City of Gadsden has reached out to Goodyear about preserving jobs in Gadsden, the mayor said in a press release. Goodyear would not respond to these efforts to bring them to the table, he said. “Goodyear’s business decision to move the production of these tires to other locations and foreign countries is disappointing. The city, state and community have invested and partnered with Goodyear for decades,” Guyton said. He said the city’s leadership remains committed to bringing good-paying jobs to the community and “doing everything we can” for the workers laid off from Goodyear.
The Etowah County Commission echoed that commitment in a statement. “Even today as we receive reports of Goodyear’s decision, Etowah County, along with the State of Alabama and the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority, is working with industrial prospects to bring new jobs to the area,” the statement said. County officials said Etowah County has been fortunate to have a plant like Goodyear as part of the community for more than 90 years, allowing generations of men and women to successfully raise families here because they were able to find good jobs at the Gadsden plant. “While we are thankful for that opportunity, we must now turn our attention to those people who have been negatively impacted by this long-anticipated closure,” the statement said, adding that county officials are praying for the employees and their families, specifically that they find work locally and are able to help the county and its municipalities as they transition through this difficult time. “We know that Goodyear people are highly skilled, have a strong work ethic and have always been dedicated employees, which will be vitally important as we work to further diversify the local economy,” they said. Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County, reiterated that the county is continuing to recruit industry to the area, specifically to the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site within the county. “We’re continuing ongoing efforts to recruit industries to the Mega-Site and to make that site as competitive as possible, so that we can recruit high-quality, high-paying jobs to Etowah County,” she said.
She said she feels for the families who have lost jobs, noting that indications show a lot of manufacturing jobs will probably relocate from overseas because of the current disruption of the supply chain. “We must be vigilant in our efforts to recruit a variety of businesses, ranging from small companies to major industries, so that our economy will be stronger and more resilient than ever,” the commission’s statement read. A union source told The Times meetings with Goodyear employees will begin Monday. The plant closure was first reported in Rubber and Plastics News, after a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and confirmed by a Goodyear spokesperson. News of the closings had been circulating in the community for almost a week, without confirmation from the corporation. “We are disheartened at the news of the closure of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Gadsden,” Heather New, president and CEO of The Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County, said. “It has been a sustaining force in our community for the past 90 years. We appreciate their rich history and longevity and the impact they’ve had on our economy,” New said in a statement. “The employees and their families are among our greatest assets, ” she said. “We salute their years of service to the company and especially their generosity to our community.
“Our commitment to workforce development is unwavering, and we pledge our utmost support in new recruitment efforts as well,” New said. “Though we have many challenges ahead of us, amplified by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proven to be a resilient community,” she said. According to the SEC filing, the company reached a tentative barganing agreement April 17, and subsequently approved a plan to permanently close the Gadsden plant, “as part of the Company’s strategy to strengthen the competitiveness of its manufacturing footprint by curtailing production of tires for declining, less profitable segments of the tire market.” The tentative bargaining agreement is subject to approval by the membership of the local union.