Erwin's Morrill Motors shutting down; 120 workers to lose jobs

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 25, 2019 at 10:00 PM

ERWIN — Morrill Motors, a division of the Wisconsin-based Regal Beloit company, will shut down its manufacturing operations in Erwin within the next year, displacing more than 120 workers.

Tyler Engle, executive director of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County, was notified of the pending closing Tuesday morning in a telephone call from the plant manager.

Engle told the board Wednesday morning state and local offices of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce have since been contacted and work is beginning on plans to assist the affected workers.

“It is a 12-month closure. There is time to plan how we are going to assist the employees with retraining, re-skilling, re-tooling and getting them into new employment with as little interruption as possible.

“We have been contacted by a couple of our manufacturers who are looking for employees. We are ramping up our recruiting of new industry. And we will be doing more of that,” Engle said.

Founded in 1946, Morrill Motors has been manufacturing small appliance motors in Erwin for 73 years. The company was purchased by Regal Beloit in 2007.

In 2016, Regal Beloit shut down operations of a second Erwin plant, transferring that facility’s production to a plant in Mexico and displacing 111 workers here.

Engle said while the former Regal Beloit plant in the Shallow Ford area is still used by the company for storage and some processing, it is his understanding the pending closure will end the company’s operations here.

In a statement to local media, Regal Beloit Vice President Robert Cherry said the plant’s production will either be outsourced or transferred to other facilities by September of 2020.

Cherry said the local plant closing was part of a Regal Climate Solutions restructuring to “proactively position the company for long-term success.”

“We are committed to working closely with our associates and customers throughout this process to minimize disruption or personal impact and to ensure a successful transition,” Cherry said in the statement.

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley is looking ahead to what she hopes will be “another one step back and two steps forward” for the community.

“We took a step back today. But we may take two steps forward tomorrow,” Hensley said. “We’ve been here before, and we are still here.”

“Those workers who are losing their jobs are good workers. They are loyal. They are work-ready. And they are ready to go to work.

“We’re going to get them trained and back. It’s just time for us to step up our efforts in recruiting,” she said.