Nearly 150 to lose jobs as Wetumpka plant announces closure

Nearly 150 to lose jobs as Wetumpka plant announces closure
A machine works on cotton inside the Wetumpka plant for Frontier Spinning Mills in this 2017 photo. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)

WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - Nearly 150 employees at a textile plant in Elmore County will ring in the new year without a job. On Tuesday, they learned the facility will close by the end of the year.

North Carolina-based Frontier Spinning Mills’ only Alabama facility, Plant 81 on Central Plank Road in Wetumpka, will cease all operations on Dec. 29, according to a 60-day notice provided to WSFA 12 News by an employee affected by the closure.

A letter indicates the Wetumpka plant for Frontier Spinning Mills will close by the end of 2019.
A letter indicates the Wetumpka plant for Frontier Spinning Mills will close by the end of 2019. (Source: WSFA 12 News viewer)

WSFA 12 News reached out to the company’s corporate office for details but has yet to hear back from them.

Elmore County Commission Chairman Troy Stubbs, District 3, said the company’s director of human resources, Robert Kain, faxed notification late Tuesday evening indicating Frontier’s decision to close the facility at the end of 2019.

The two-page fax, provided by Stubbs to WSFA 12 News, notifies the county commission, Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis, and Alabama Department of Commerce Rapid Response Coordinator Jessica Dent of the pending “total closure” that will affect all 148 employees.

A copy of the fax indicating Frontier Spinning Mills intention to close its Wetumpka facility.
A copy of the fax indicating Frontier Spinning Mills intention to close its Wetumpka facility. (Source: Elmore County Commissioner Troy Stubbs)

Stubbs said no reason was given for the closure, which he called “concerning.” Working with the Elmore County Development Authority, Stubbs said they are trying to get more information from Frontier about the job losses, the fate of the facility, as well as determining if the closure was possibly brought on by some business or industry change, or if there was something local that prompted it.

“That’s what we want to find out,” Stubbs explained. He added the commission didn’t want to speculate on the cause but added he couldn’t believe it had anything to do with the local job force. “It’s under four percent in Elmore County,” he explained of the county’s unemployment rate. Still, that info could be helpful as officials work on future economic development projects.

Based on the notice given to employees, it doesn’t appear the plant’s closure comes with any opportunities elsewhere in the company. The notice states “As you know, Frontier Spinning Mills, Inc. does not have a job bumping system, that is, employees will not be able to displace more junior employees out of their job positions as a result of this closure.”

Those who leave prior to the closure “will continue to receive pay and benefits through December 28, 2019,” the notice explains.

$6 MILLION EXPANSION?

The plant opened in 2001. Its demise comes just two years after the 2017 celebration of a multi-million dollar expansion. Eighteen new jobs were added to the staff, which already stood at approximately 120.

“Spinning Elmore County’s Future Today” was the slogan used as the plant underwent a $6 million upgrade.

A sign outside the Frontier Spinning Mills Wetumpka plant proclaimed it was "Spinning Elmore County's Future Today" at a 2017 expansion ground breaking.
A sign outside the Frontier Spinning Mills Wetumpka plant proclaimed it was "Spinning Elmore County's Future Today" at a 2017 expansion ground breaking. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)

“Our hope is that those individuals and families impacted by the closure will be supported by the community and will be able to find employment in the near future,” Stubbs said.

David Niesen with the Dislocated Workers Unit of the Workforce Development Section of the Alabama Department of Commerce told WSFA 12 News the company has not notified the department of any closures, so Alabama’s WARN List does not currently list it. He said that could change, but without notification, the department couldn’t confirm any closure.

Frontier Spinning Mills, founded in 1996, says it’s “one of the largest producers of 100% cotton and cotton-blend yarns in the world.” Its corporate website says it employs more than 1,100 people and lists four other plants, all located in North Carolina.

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