Whirlpool Calls It Quits in Fort Smith

By the end of tomorrow, more than 900 people will be out of work in Fort Smith.

This is a photo sent to 5NEWS of one of the last side-by-side refrigerators leaving the Whirlpool plant Thursday. The plant will close its doors Friday for good.

The closure will end 45 years of operations in Fort Smith.

“I used to work there years ago,” said Webster Rogers, of Fort Smith. “It’s gonna be missed big time.”

The company announced last fall the Fort Smith plant would shut down. The closure means more than 900 people will lose their jobs. “I know a lot of the people there. I know there’s a lot of sadness,” said Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders.

Mayor Sanders retired from Whirlpool after 32 years of service. He said, “You don’t necessarily miss the job itself or the jobs you’ve had, you miss seeing a lot of the people, excellent people, an excellent workforce.”

The plant employed more than 4,500 workers in 2006, but that number dwindled over time. “They bring a lot of money into Fort Smith,” said Rogers. “They created a lot of jobs in Fort Smith. My son lost his job because Whirlpool’s closing.”

The once full parking lot now sits nearly empty. “I anticipate that as people clock out for the last time that it’ll finally really hit home for all of us,” said Mayor Sanders.

The mayor says he believes they will eventually find another company to occupy the Whirlpool building. “It’s not going to be overnight,” said Mayor Sanders. “It’s a very large facility and it’s going to be a challenge to find someone that can use that much space.”

In May Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce President Paul Harvel estimated around 200 Whirlpool workers had already found jobs.

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