ATHENS, Tenn. (AP) — About 400 workers at automotive interior supplier Collins & Aikman's plant in central Tennessee will be idled when the bankrupt company's plant closes Aug. 31, company executives said.
Collins & Aikman could not find a buyer for its Athens plant that opened in 1978 as Excello Corp., and later became Textron before selling to Collins & Aikman in 2001.
The plant previously had as many as 650 workers.
Danny Burris, a 25-year-employee, said knowing about the company's bankruptcy and financial woes did little to soften news of the closure.
''We knew it could happen, but now that it has, it hits hard,'' said the 51-year-old forklift operator.
The Detroit-based company had negotiated to sell part of its plastics division to Cadence Innovations, another Michigan company. But Collins & Aikman spokesman David Youngman said the deal faltered, forcing the company to shutter its Athens site as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, which began in May 2005.
''Despite the employees' continued best efforts and their ability to maintain the highest level of production throughout this process, we unfortunately — as a result of unexpected and unforeseeable developments — will have to close the Athens plant,'' Youngman said Tuesday.
Since Collins and Aikman filed bankruptcy, Youngman said 39 of the company's 91 global manufacturing facilities have closed, resulting in the loss of more than 10,000 jobs. The company has sold, or is in a pending sale, with 47 plants.
Five plants are still in limbo, Youngman said.
The plant closing is the biggest job loss in Athens since Athens Furniture ceased operations in May 2001, resulting in the loss of 600 workers.
''This is a great loss for our people and our community,'' Athens Mayor John Proffitt said. ''I want to extend my sympathies to the employees and their families.''
McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said there is a ''glimmer of hope (that) a purchase through the bankruptcy court'' still is possible. Gentry said the county will try to find a buyer for the Collins & Aikman building.