September 30, 2009 10:24:00 AM
WEST POINT -- A county already stricken with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, got another dose of bad news Friday: Navistar cut about 80 employees from its staff.
And Clay County District 1 Supervisor Don Horton, whose district contains the plant, this morning said the impact will be felt throughout the county.
"Any time the unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state, any time you have more people laid off, there''s less people bringing in a paycheck," Horton said. "So that would be a major impact to Clay County -- people not working,"
Navistar''s most recent layoff leaves about 120 people working at the facility off Eshman Avenue, which produces mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles.
Layoffs were announced Friday, Horton said, and they were effective immediately.
"To my understanding, they didn''t know (layoffs were coming)," Horton said.
Many workers laid off when the Sara Lee plant closed in 2007 found employment at the plant, Horton said. They now find themselves in the same position -- looking for work.
"It helped us to replace a lot of the people (who were laid off) from Sara Lee ... It helped the county. It helped out a whole lot," he said.
Horton said the layoffs are a result of "lack of contracts."
"The reason for the reduction is attributed to a lower production volume," Elissa Koc, Navistar Spokeswoman, said this morning.
Over the summer, Navistar lost a $1.06 billion Pentagon contract -- to build 2,244 MRAPs -- to Oshkosh Corp.
Then, 275 people at the West Point facility were terminated with about 200 left to complete work on a contract for 262 "Husky" tactical support vehicles for the British military.
The deadline for delivery of the Husky vehicles is February 2010.
Navistar''s West Point facility also produces the company''s 7000-series vehicles for the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, headquartered in Warren, Mich., Koc noted.
Production of those vehicles is ongoing.
Meanwhile, Horton said, local officials are looking toward the future.
"As of now, we''re just trying to get (the laid-off employees) all signed up for unemployment and hoping that they are going to get some more contracts (at Navistar) and get ''em back to work," Horton said of the laid-off workers.
"As we move forward and look for more projects and production volumes increase, there may be more opportunities to increase our workforce," Koc said.
According to data released last week by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, Clay County had a jobless rate of 18.4 percent in August, just below the state''s highest unemployment rate of 18.6 percent, held in Jefferson County.
Oktibbeha County''s rate was 9.5 percent, Lowndes County had a 10.9 percent unemployment rate, Monroe County had an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent and Noxubee County''s jobless rate was 18 percent.
The state''s unemployment rate was at 9.5 percent
Navistar''s West Point facility began operations in early 2006.
Horton hopes the area can draw industry to put people back to work.