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Furniture-maker Flexsteel Industries Inc. is closing its Harrison plant in late August as part of a companywide restructuring effort, leaving nearly 110 workers without jobs.

Officials with city government and the local chamber of commerce were initially unaware of plans to close the plant, only hearing rumors of a possible closure on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Mayor Jerry Jackson received official notice of the plant closure from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Development through a required Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice. The federal act requires employers to provide advanced notice to local governments of impending plant closures.

According to the document, the plant will close on Aug. 20, or within 14 days after that, leaving 109 workers unemployed. None of the Flexsteel workers there are represented by a union. The majority of the jobs involved sewing and upholstery.

"It did come as a surprise," said Bob Largent, president and chief executive officer of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce. Largent said plans are underway to coordinate between local government, employers and service providers to help the Flexsteel workers. He said a planning meeting scheduled for today would hammer out key details and timelines.

He added that a job fair for the displaced workers will be held in mid-July and efforts are already underway to find jobs for the workers with Harrison's other employers. He said the goal is to find a local job for each displaced Flexsteel worker.

The preliminary unemployment rate for Boone County stood at 2.6% for April, the most recent data available, down from 3.4% for the same period a year ago, according to information from the U.S. Department of Labor. The state's unemployment rate was 2.9% for April. Boone County's labor force was 16,135 in April, up from 15,979 for the same period in 2018.

"It's a hit, but we're taking every single step we can to lessen the impact," Largent said.

Jackson, the mayor, said that Flexsteel has operated in Harrison in some form or fashion since 1958 and at its high point employed about 200 workers. He said Flexsteel owns two buildings in Harrison.

In a release earlier this week, Flexsteel said the company expects to take an earnings hit of between $48 million to $53 million over the next two years as a result of the restructuring. The costs include last month's announced plan to exit its commercial office and custom designed hospitality lines along with closing the company's manufacturing facility in Riverside, Calif.

Flexsteel shares fell 57 cents, or 3.4%, to close at $16.12 in trading Thursday on the Nasdaq exchange. Shares have traded as high as $40.87 and as low as $16.04 over the past year.

Business on 06/21/2019

Print Headline: Furniture maker's Arkansas plant to shut; 109 jobs going

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