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Illinois Losing Three Auto Parts Plants

Collins & Aikman closing three auto parts plants in Rantoul; 475 employees affected by closures.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - The bankrupt owner of three auto parts plants in Rantoul now says the facilities will close at the end of August unless they are sold.

Most of the roughly 475 people who work at the plants will be laid off beginning Aug. 17 and the plants will close Aug. 31, a Collins & Aikman Corp. executive said in letters dated Friday and sent to the city of Rantoul and the employees' union.

Financing from the company's customers, which has allowed Collins & Aikman to continue operating, ends at the end of August.

''The plant closing and layoffs will be permanent,'' wrote Mark Leyda, the Southfield, Mich.-based company's executive vice president of human resources.

The letters followed similar correspondence sent to Rantoul leaders earlier this month warning that closure was coming. Village Administrator David Johnston said Monday it only confirmed what he and others expected.

''August 31st, folks, it's over,'' he said.

Rantoul is organizing a job fair to help people who lose jobs find new ones, he said, and already has heard from some potential employers with openings.

The Rantoul plants are part of Collins & Aikman's plastics business, which manufactures auto trim such as consoles and door panels. Collins & Aikman spokesman David Youngman said Monday that the company continues to talk with potential buyers.

He has declined to identify all but Cadence Innovation LLC, a Troy, Mich.-based company with which Collins & Aikman reached a tentative deal in April—when the Rantoul plants employed more than 700 people. That agreement fell through in June.

Patrick Gleason, president of Teamsters Local 26, which represents most of the Rantoul workers, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press Monday.

Collins & Aikman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2005, but last year abandoned plans to reorganize its business and began selling assets to pay its creditors. The company, like many of its competitors, struggled in recent years as domestic automakers' sales lagged.

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