Heber Springs plant laying off hundreds to begin 2014 - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Heber Springs plant laying off hundreds to begin 2014

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HEBER SPRINGS (KATV) --  An Arkansas factory known for making the undercarriage for the first corvette is laying off 300 employees after losing its largest account.

Saint Jean Industries in Heber Springs makes parts and accessories for vehicles, but now comes a significant decrease in workers.

As the New Year rings in for 2014 in a couple of months nearly 90 percent of employees at Saint Jean's in Heber Springs plant are facing cuts. The company lost its largest account from General Motors, and now the workers are losing their jobs.

For nearly a decade Saint Jean has given hundreds of people in Heber Springs a job in the automobile industry, but because of the lost account it won't be making as many orders, or money.

"Part of that is that they were doing so much business with (General Motors) than they had anticipated, and they really just couldn't keep up with," said Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson.

SJI is based in France, and owned by Emile Di Serio. It considers Heber Springs its North American headquarters, so it won't completely close the plant. It expects to keep only about 40 of the 340 employees around to begin 2014.

"Industry is a big piece of who Heber Springs is and it will be a very dramatic impact on our community," McPherson added.

"We'll do everything we can to help the employees who are displaced at Saint Jean. I'm sure the state will bring in some workforce training and those types of things that will either help retrain the people, who were displaced, help them find other jobs."

A very similar event happened around 2008 when the economy went south. SJI had about 500 employees at the time, suffered major layoffs, but eventually it built business back again. Mayor McPherson believes we may see that once again here, but it will take time.