CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- Philip Morris said Wednesday it will close a cigarette plant in North Carolina and put 1,100 people out of work this summer as the company consolidates its manufacturing in Virginia.
The plant in Cabarrus County will close by the end of July, the Richmond, Va.-based company said. Company spokeswoman Paige Magness said managers began notifying employees of the closure at 7 a.m.
Philip Morris first said two years ago it would close the plant by the end of 2010. Magness said some employees would be kept on to shut the plant down, a process that could last into next year.
"This is a process we began almost two years ago," Magness said, referring to the company's original closing announcement in 2007.
The company, a division of Altria Group Inc., said it was speeding up the closure process in North Carolina due to "ongoing cigarette volume declines, including the projected impact of the recently enacted federal excise tax increase."
Cabarrus County Commission chairman Jay White said the county had expected a 2010 closure, but already has been diversifying the tax base for life after Philip Morris.
"Years ago, they were a large part of the tax base," he said. "We've been able to diversify and bring in different business so now they are a smaller part of the tax base."
Philip Morris paid nearly $5 million in city taxes in 2006 on its 2,100 acre site, making it Concord's top taxpayer.
State officials are preparing for the closure, too.
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco toured the plant and surrounding acreage in Concord.
Charles Winkler, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Commerce, said commerce representatives are working with the company and local officials on workforce development assistance.
Philip Morris produces Marlboro and 16 other cigarette brands in the United States.