COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. — In early September, FreightCar America announced that its manufacturing facility in Cherokee would be closing.
The company said the facility will remain open and in full production through the end of the year to fulfill the remaining order commitments for 2020.
Colbert County Commission Chairman Jimmy Gardiner said the closure comes as a surprise.
“I know that they’ve been scaling back quite a bit,” Gardiner said. “I did not see the fact that they were just going to completely shut it down.”
The facility has operated in its location in Cherokee for 12 years. FCA officials blame low demand for new freight cars and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic—but Gardiner said issues date back even further.
“It’s been a struggle for them since the beginning,” Gardiner said. “Unfortunately, when that thing first started, it was in ’08, The Great Recession, and it just never really got off the ground like we all hoped it would.”
Gardiner said he’s devastated for the employees who come from all over the Shoals area to work, but he’s thankful for the advanced notice.
“I know that the Shoals Economic Development Authority, known as SEDA, is working tirelessly to get another corporation or plant in there,” Gardiner said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed and keep working really hard to try to help our people out.”
Gardiner said the Shoals area has the best workforce and he wants to see that they’re taken care of.
Layoffs will happen in stages between November and February. Affected employees will receive a bonus for staying through their assigned completion date.