Elastic Corporation to shut down: Columbiana factorys 230 jobs moved to Central America

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Once the 11th largest employer in Shelby County, Elastic Corporation of America recently informed employees

of plans to shut down the factory and move its more than 200 jobs to Central America.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe said the announcement is a major blow to many Shelby County residents.

&8220;We are very sad for the employees because this is their livelihood,&8221; Lowe said. &8220;Many of them have devoted their entire adult lives to working there.&8221;

ECA employees received letters serving as official 60-day notices unless they were personally told otherwise. The company is expected to close its doors March 24 leaving only about 20 employees behind for minimal operation duties.

Ken Auman, corporate human resource director, said the company regrets having to leave their employees behind but that the move is a necessary one.

&8220;We&8217;ve had great employees but its just one thing you have to do in textiles,&8221; Auman said. &8220;You go to these foreign countries for lower wages, for cheaper work.&8221;

The Elastic Corporation produces elastic tapes that make up the bands in under garments for companies like Fruit of the Loom, Vanity Fair and Jockey.

&8220;We have a facility in Honduras, and it&8217;s likely that&8217;s where we will be going,&8221; Auman said. &8220;A majority of our customers are in Central America, and they want our presence there.&8221;

The company once employed as many as 300 people in the area but has been slowly downsizing to its current staff level of about 230 workers.

The company is required to provide assistance to any employee that will be let go due to the move. Employees will receive help with insurance, educational opportunities and other benefits. The company

&8220;What we are trying to do is to see if there is any way we can help find new employment for the workers,&8221; said Stacy Walkup, Executive Director of the chamber. &8220;Hopefully, along with help from the state and local economic development groups, we will be able to bring in a new prospect for the area.&8221;

Officials hope the availability of rail access, sewage and waste processing capabilities and existing facilities will be attractive to relocating companies.