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Fortis closing Fort Smith, Ark., plant

By: Frank Antosiewicz

October 19, 2011

FORT SMITH, ARK. (Oct. 19, 4:25 p.m. ET) — Fortis Plastics LLC plans to shutter its Fort Smith, Ark., facility, according to the city administrator. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that work at other locations may be reduced — or other plants may be shuttered.

Fortis has filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification letter with the city, according to Ray Gosack, city administrator, and will terminate its 93 employees from Nov. 4-18 “because of an inability to secure additional capital.”

Fortis, which is headquartered in South Bend, Ind., and its parent Monomoy Capital Partners LP of New York are not responding to requests for comment.

Another Fortis plant in Poplar Bluff, Mo., is facing rumors of closure, according to a local newspaper, the Daily American Republic. The paper said some of the 130 workers are applying for jobs at other local plastic companies. The state workforce agency said Oct. 19 that it had not received a WARN notice from Fortis.

The paper also said a Briggs & Stratton Corp. plant in Poplar Bluff, which Fortis supplies, is experiencing layoffs.

Two Fortis plants in Mexico also may face slowdowns, according to an industry source.

Another source indicated that some Fortis customers have had to scramble for new suppliers to replace a lack of parts due to Fortis cuts.

The Fort Smith plant produced parts for a Whirlpool Corp. facility in Fort Smith that is under review, according a Whirlpool spokesman.

Whirlpool said in an email: “The declining demand for side-by-side refrigeration, and reduced forecasted production volumes for 2012, has prompted the company to initiate a study of options for the Fort Smith location in late August. No decisions have been made, however the company is reviewing asset utilization across its North American refrigeration operations. Current demand for all major appliances is at recessionary levels. We continue to monitor our business, and make adjustments as needed to deliver best cost and best quality to our customers.”

Gosack said despite cutbacks at Fortis and Whirlpool, there are companies hiring in Fort Smith. He noted that Mitsubishi Power Systems is building a wind turbine plant and expects to hire more than 300 workers next year.

Fortis formed in late 2008 when Monomoy Capital combined the Leggett & Platt Inc. plastics division and Atlantis Plastics LLC. Atlantis was a major Whirlpool supplier.

Since then, the company has closed six plants: Elkhart, Ind.; LaVergne, Tenn.; Alamo, Texas; Brownsville, Texas; Booneville, Miss.; and Henderson, Ky.

In that same time frame Fortis has purchased two plants in Mexico: a facility in Ramos Arizpe from Moll Industries and a plant in Chihuahua from Nypro Inc.

The Henderson closing came about soon after Whirlpool closed its nearby Evansville, Ind., plant.

A Fortis website notes that the company acquired Kurz-Kasch Inc.’s thermoset molding business in 2009. According to a Dayton Business Journal story, Kurz-Kasch will close its Miamisburg, Ohio, plant and transfer work to Newcomerstown, Ohio, and South Boston, Va., by mid-November.

Kurz-Kasch is also listed as Monomoy portfolio company.