East Texas Plants Close Leaving More Than 300 Unemployed

An East Texas company closes its doors, leaving more than 300 people without a job. Fleetwood Travel Trailers in Longview, has been making trailers in East Texas for more than thirty years. The company says it can no longer afford to keep the plant open.

It started off like any other day.  Fleetwood employees say they got to the plant at 7:00 a.m. this morning and went to work.

"Right after out first break, our supervisor we met at her desk and she said that we were to report to the lunch room at 10:00 a.m., which was ten minutes from the moment we were told," said Winona Walker, 7 Year Fleetwood Employee. "We all gathered there, and that's when we were told that our plant was shutting down permanently." Workers say rumors had been going around for some time that the plant was losing money. They say they hoped the plant would only close temporarily.

"I think it was handled very unprofessionally," said Walker. "I think that the employees needed more time to get used to the idea that they were going to have to seek other employment."   Fleetwood issued a statement this afternoon saying it regrets having to seek such a painful course of action, but that it's necessary to regain consistent profitability in a very competitive market. City and county officials say the Fleetwood did not tell them about the closing. Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt learned the news when KLTV called him this afternoon.

"Quite frankly I'm disappointed that we were not notified officially, so there could have been more of a notification process for everyone," said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt. "The good thing if there is a good thing about anything going on right now is unemployment is low. There are a lot of opportunities out there."

"It's pretty sad," said Walker. "I think for all of us, but we will make it. We'll make it. " Fleetwood says it plans on closing two other travel trailer manufacturing plants. Stoudt says Fleetwood will pay its employees through May and provide health insurance. He also says the East Texas Workforce Center is prepared to help the 300 let go today find new jobs.

Molly Reuter, reporting. mreuter@kltv.com