The gray sky overhead painted a rather gloomy portrait of the mood around the Oreck Manufacturing Plant.
"It's never a good day when you lose a company," Harrison County Development Commission Executive Director Larry Barnett said. "It isn't a good day. But we will be very positive moving forward to market this facility to other companies."
Oreck was once hailed a savior in Harrison County for restoring jobs at the Long Beach Industrial Park plant. Oreck's decision to close the vacuum plant sucked the wind out of 450 sails. That's how many people will lose their jobs between the end of February and October. A news release said the company made the announcement today to give plant employees as much notice as possible.
Harrison County Supervisor Marlin Ladner said the decision to move "at this time, or any other time, is just unbelievable to me."
The headline on the Oreck news release also had Supervisor Ladner scratching his head. It touted the fact that Oreck was keeping jobs in America by moving from Long Beach to Cookeville, Tennessee.
"Long Beach, Mississippi is in America," Ladner said. "That's my response, that if they want to keep jobs in America, Long Beach, Mississippi is in America."
Ladner was also miffed by the reasons Oreck listed for moving its plant to Tennessee. Oreck's president cited "the increased cost of doing business and the harsh realities of living on the gulf coast" since Katrina. "They're just aggravating it. By leaving, they're making it even more difficult," said Ladner.
"Mississippi's Economic Development Commisison, the State and the County were extremely helpful over the past 10 years," the Oreck news release stated. "This post Katrina plant phase out is determined by facts and factors beyond anyone's control."
Oreck's president says his company will work with the Harrison County Development Commission to find a new group to take over the manufacturing plant.
When Oreck came to the Long Beach Industrial Park, it received a 10 year tax exemption. Development commissioners estimate the vacuum maker saved more than $1.7 million over that period of time. The tax break runs out at the end of the year, just as Oreck is beginning to shut down its plant.
"I don't think it's right," Ladner said. "I don't think it's fair. And I don't think it's equitable."