Tennessee’s County With Lowest Unemployment Is Losing Its Biggest Manufacturer | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee’s County With Lowest Unemployment Is Losing Its Biggest Manufacturer

Jan 7, 2015

The Tennessee county with the lowest unemployment rate in the state has seen its fortunes change. One of Lincoln County’s largest employers is leaving. Goodman manufacturing is consolidating its operations to Texas.

By 2017, Goodman will be gone, and some 1,700 people will be jobless in Lincoln County, on the Alabama border. The decision also will result in closing a smaller Goodman plant in Dayton, Tenn.

WPLN featured the Lincoln County plant in a story last year about the area’s surprisingly low unemployment rate, which has dipped below 5 percent in the past year. Goodman, which makes air conditioning units, is the major employer in town and has been for decades. Multiple generations work there.

“I guess it runs in the family,” Jonathan Smith said. “My mom and dad both. My dad was out here for 35 years. My mom was out here for 25 years. My sister has been out here 16 years, and I’ve been here 12.”

Goodman is now owned by a Japanese company called Daikin Industries, which has decided to consolidate all of its manufacturing at a new $400 million plant outside of Houston.

The plant in Fayetteville is unionized. Workers at the company’s existing Texas operation are not, though the company denies that unionization played a big role in the consolidation.

“Whether or not any of our manufacturing employees were members of a union was not a deciding factor in the final decision,” Goodman’s Rex Anderson says in an email.

Anderson says the plant closure in Tennessee is a business decision related to the need for additional capacity.

“It’s a shock, something that we dreaded,” says former Fayetteville mayor John Ed Underwood, noting that he’s glad the company gave officials early notice. “But we may go to the highest unemployment [in the state] in a couple of years.”