Weather-related closings

Nearly 100 West Memphis workers laid off after company announces abrupt closing

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. - - A West Memphis plant is shutting down and has left nearly 100 people without work.

The Simplot plant off South Airport Road has operated in West Memphis for decades, but now, it's a ghost town. Eighty-five workers were laid off this month.

Aretha Poney says workers, like her cousin, weren't given a reason. Now, her cousin is out of a job and hasn't found a new one.

"People have kids to take care of, a house to take care of and bills to pay," Poney says.

"It's hard times now," she adds,"There's not a lot of jobs around here."

The city says the plant will officially close in March, but from the looks of things, it's shut down already. The city also says it was told about the plant closure on Jan. 3, but hasn't been told why the plant is closing.

City Councilwoman Helen Harris says it's a significant blow to the West Memphis economy. It's an economy city officials are trying to boost.

"Don't have no jobs like that to replace them. We don't have no place to replace 85 peoples right now," Harris says, "Here it seems like every time we try to get one side up, the other side fall."

Simplot is a major food company that specializes in frozen french fries. A number of people worked at the West Memphis plant for a long time.

"You've been on your job 15 or 20 years and, all of the sudden, you don't have a job. That's sad," Harris says.

The city hopes a new business takes over the facility as soon as possible, but for now, it's a waiting game.

"We just have to keep praying for those families and hope they find work," Harris says.

A tough start to 2018 as families try to figure out what's next.

We called Simplot to ask why the plant is closing, but as of this writing, we have not heard back.