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Economy forces reduction of 600 Heatcraft employees

Grenada economy feeling the heat of recent layoffs

GRENADA — Despite recent layoffs at Heatcraft, Inc. in Grenada, people are staying in town to take advantage of the school systems and other amenities.

But just because people are staying in the area does not mean that they are spending money there too.

“A lot of people are more cautious, which affects retailers and others,” said William Tyner, executive director of the Grenada County Chamber of Commerce.

But Tyner is hopeful of what the future holds and believes the economy will recover quickly.

“I haven’t noticed a lot of extra houses on the market,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is panicked. Obviously we feel for the employees and Heatcraft does too. But I think there are opportunities here and there will be more in the future. I just think there’s a bright future ahead of us.”

In the meantime though, improvement never comes fast enough for employees who have been laid off. Andy Carter is president of the Grenada County Chamber of Commerce and also the human resources director at Heatcraft. He said the company, which is owned by Dallas-based Lennox International, started layoffs of employees in March 2001. Today, the three facilities in Grenada employ 2,200, down from a high of 2,800 employees in July 2000.

“I’m thinking we’re where we need to be,” Carter said. “Even since we’ve had our reduction we’ve had to call some of our employees back.”

The first reduction of employees was a 10% reduction across the board, of both hourly and salaried employees. The second came as a reduction of direct hourly employees.

But regardless of the recent rough times Heatcraft and Lennox have had in Grenada, Carter said there are no intentions of closing operations or moving.

“We’re glad to be a part of the growth and development of the community,” Carter said. “Our employees are involved in community life. We are very fortunate to be located in a community that in turn supports us. We are continuing our position in Grenada and it’s unfortunate we’ve had to have the reduction we’ve had, but what we want to do is to protect and sustain the long-term growth of our core business here.”

Holmes Community College in Grenada provides extensive pre-employment training for Heatcraft. The college also works to provide customized training for Heatcraft and other companies, including computer training, industrial maintenance upgrades and cross-skills training, as well as leadership supervisory skills training, team-oriented problem solving and company specific training.

Since employees have experienced layoffs, Holmes designed an employee educational interest survey that was given to all the individuals who were recently laid off providing for short-term skills training needs as well as interest in regular long-term vocational-technical programs. Recently, Heatcraft returned the results of the survey to Holmes, and as a result the community college has between 12 and 14 new students registered for regular programs at the Grenada campus.

Holmes Community College’s Grenada campus is also working with several planning districts under the Workforce Investment Act to encourage employees to enroll in that program to come back to school as displaced workers.

“We’re here for the purpose of education and to provide educational opportunities,” said Jack Holmes, vice president of the Grenada Center of HCC. “We hope to expand our course offerings as the needs arise.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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