Calsonic closing plant at Ceres|[11/17/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 17, 2006

CalsonicKansei North America will pull out of Warren County and move all 130 employees of its manufacturing plant at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex to plants in Canton and Shelbyville, Tenn., the company said.

In a release late Thursday, the company termed the move of its operations out of Vicksburg a &#8220corporate redesign that focuses on the creation of manufacturing Centers for Excellence.”

Bob Masteller, vice president of human resources at the company’s Shelbyville-based North American operation, said consolidation is the goal.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

&#8220We had three plants doing the same thing,” Masteller said. &#8220It’s part of a long-term strategy.”

The press release said the pullout should begin in December and be completed by May.

Since its heralded opening on 52 acres at Ceres in 2002, Calsonic has manufactured exhaust systems, manifolds and converters as a Tier 1 supplier to Nissan. In recent months, that included the converter for the Japan-based automaker’s Altima model, as well as for the Titan pickup and the Quest van.

Plant manager Bob Croisdale said this morning his status with the company is &#8220undetermined.”

&#8220It’s a corporate decision,” Croisdale said.

The company does not plan to sell its building at Ceres, Masteller said, but will look at other possible uses, most likely as a distribution center.

&#8220We’re keeping it,” he said.

About 30 employees at various positions will be given a chance to keep their jobs at the Canton plant, adding to the 80 employees working there, while the rest will have the option of going to Shelbyville, to join 300 there, Masteller said this morning.

Severance packages will also be offered, he added.

Local economic development officials were surprised by the news of the pullout, expressing concern that the automaker’s consolidation could affect Yorozu Automotive Mississippi’s operations at Ceres.

&#8220I know Nissan has tightened down on their suppliers,” Vicksburg Warren Community Alliance executive director Scott Martinez said.

&#8220Nobody anticipated it,” Warren County Port Commission chairman Johnny Moss said. &#8220But it’s all related to events in the automotive industry.”

Moss said the expected loss of 130 jobs in Warren County &#8220was a blow,” but the local economy could absorb it &#8220because we’re diversified.”

Warren County Port Commission Executive Director Jim Pilgrim, who along with other business leaders this week said the economic picture for Warren County for 2007 was strong, did not return calls this morning.

John Lanier, plant manager at Yorozu’s suspensions-system factory at Ceres, said the company plans to be in Vicksburg &#8220for years to come.”

&#8220Obviously, it’s a difficult time for Tier 1 suppliers. We have no plans to pull up stakes. We feel we’re making progress,” Lanier said.

Yorozu manufactures suspensions for the Altima and Quest, as well as the Armada SUV. The company also supplies suspensions for the General Motors plant in Shreveport.

Calsonic and Yorozu opened within a year of each other and were trumpeted by economic development officials at the time as signaling Vicksburg’s entry into the brutally competitive world of auto manufacturing plants and distribution centers that cropped up in the South in the late 1990s and continued into this decade.

In 1995, a speculative building was built at Ceres in the hopes it could be a site for a similar center, but no buyer has been found.