Athens Plant Closing, To Leave 400 Jobless

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Athens (WVLT) -- Hundreds of McMinn County residents are looking for a new place to work tonight.

That's because long-time Athens employer Collins and Aikman are closing its doors to 400 manufacturing jobs at the end of the month.

It's the small town's third largest employer and it's leaving a lot of moms and dads wondering what to do when it comes to supporting their families.

Trains rattle past the Collins and Aikman plant several times a day, but come September there will be no one left to hear the whistle blow.

"It's a big impact," said Randy Sliger who manages a local radio station. "Probably one of the largest plant closings this area's seen in several years."

The Small town Athens is losing a big time employer that's leaving upwards of 400 folks without a job.

That was the main topic at today's rescue squad fund raiser where they're cooking up home made chili to go along with the squad's famous rodeo steaks.

"We've got friends and neighbors that have been a part of that plant for years and they are beside themselves in knowing what to do next," said Annie Moore, a life long Athens resident. "They're out looking for jobs today."

That's not the case for everybody, Bucky Daniels has an added option.

"I could retire, it's not going to hurt me, but it's the people inside," said Daniels who has worked in the plant for the last 27 years. "There's wives and husbands that live and work, and I feel sorry for them."

And there's even more to lose aside from the job.

"You know those benefits that were once 100% given to you and now you're 100% having to get them on your own can really be hard," said local insurance agent Zach Hester.

The plant that was named one of Industry Week's best plants will be sorely missed by most everyone in McMinn County.

"Those people spend money in the community and it impacts retail and who can buy autos and impacts those car dealers," said Jack Hammontree, executive vice-president of the McMinn County Development Authority. "Yes, it has far reaching affects."

Hammontree also says they're still hoping another company will buy the plant and re-open it.

If you drive a Corvette, chances are the interior of your car was manufactured in Athens at the Collins and Aikman plant.

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