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Oreck CEO says ‘harsh realities’ leading to phase out of Miss. plant

Vacuum cleaner maker Oreck Corp. said Tuesday it will close its manufacturing plant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, moving the jobs north to the company’s operation in Cookeville, Tenn.

The 450 jobs in Long Beach will be phased out from February through October 2007.

New Orleans-based Oreck was the first manufacturer to reopen along the storm-battered areas of south Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. The vacuum maker was running 10 days after the storm.

“Over a year later, the increased cost of doing business and the harsh realities of living on the Gulf Coast caused the relocation decision,” Oreck Corporation President and CEO Tom Oreck said in a news release Tuesday.

He said the company wanted to give the Long Beach employees as much notice as possible, and will give them help with job placement, resume writing and counseling.

“This post-Katrina plant phase out is determined by facts and factors beyond anyone’s control,” Tom Oreck said.

Larry Barnett, executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission, said he regrets the loss of jobs.

“We’re going to be doing everything we can to work with the state agencies, the employment services, the company to bring someone else in here,” Barnett said. “We’re going to help market that facility, and we’re going to do everything we can to get those jobs back at that facility.”

Workers told south Mississippi’s Sun Herald newspaper about two weeks ago that some production lines already were shutting down.

Company officials announced in July that Oreck was buying a 310,000-square-foot plant in Cookeville, Tenn., to open what was referred to as a second manufacturing facility. Cookeville is about 75 miles east of Nashville and 100 miles north of Chattanooga.

In August, the company announced that its 100-person call center in Long Beach would be closed and moved to Cookeville by October.

The company, founded by David Oreck in 1963, bought the 375,000-square-foot plant in Long Beach in 1997. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 heavily damaged both that plant and the company headquarters.

Oreck also makes canister vacuums, air purifiers and other home products sold at 475 retail outlets, on the Internet and by direct response.