Rogersville’s ZF plant, formerly TRW, announced on Thursday that it will be closing its doors in December of 2021.
When they close, the plant will have been in operation for 48 years.
The plant currently employs around 200 people, all of whom will be displaced.
“It’s devastating,” said Hawkins County Industrial Board Chairman Larry Elkins. “When I got the notice, it was just heartbreaking to me because we work every day trying to bring in industry, help industry expand and bring good jobs to Hawkins County. To lose something like this, which has been a mainstay for almost 50 years, is just heartbreaking. I know it’s devastating to the families of the people who work there.”
“This difficult decision was reached because the plant’s major business contracts are ending with little significant replacement business secured,” ZF’s Senior Communications Manager John Wilkerson told the Review.
Rogersville’s ‘sister plant’ in Marion, Virginia will also close its doors in December of 2022, displacing around 60 people.
Both ZF facilities produce steering gears primarily for light passenger vehicles with some steering gears for commercial vehicles being produced in Rogersville. The plants largest customers are General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Wilkerson told the Review that ZF will be assisting employees in seeking other employment as the plant production reaches an end.
“At this time, we are concentrating on continuing to satisfy our customers with quality products until the contracts end,” he added. “We will carefully consider what is best for the site and the community in the future once production has completed.”
Industrial board wants to bring new business in
Elkins told the Review that, ideally, he would like to see another manufacturing company purchase the building to bring jobs back to the community. However, he noted that selling the building that housed ZF “will not be an easy task.”
“The building (that housed Rogersville’s ZF) was originally built for Burlington Industries, but the textile industry left the United States and went offshore,” he said. “TRW just happened along, got some contracts, needed a building and needed to be manufacturing quickly. The Industrial Board was able to entice them to come look at the building, and they loved it. It still had a dirt floor at the time. They built the frame of the building, but they hadn’t poured the concrete when TRW bought the building from Burlington.”
This versatility makes a building more desirable for a company, as it can be built to suit the company’s needs.
“A 47-year-old building, though—unless you get another automotive industry—it will be a hard sell on our part,” Elkins said.
However, the building does have some desirable characteristics.
“It’s got a huge amount of power available, water, sewer and everything,” Elkins said. “It’s in the city limits, and it’s got a lot of ‘plusses.’ But, we’re going to do everything we can to save this business or bring a new one in.”
The Industrial Development Board plans to work with its partners, including NETWORKS, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to try and bring in another business.
“A mainstay for almost 50 years”
Elkins noted that the plant had slowly been waning, as ZF even laid off around 250 employees a few months ago.
“In its heyday, though, it was one of the highest paying corporations with the best benefits in Hawkins County,” he said. “It was in the top two or three for its entire existence. It was a wonderful place to work. They had up to 750 employees at one time. They have been a real asset to Rogersville and all over the region. There were people who would drive 40 or 50 miles to work at TRW. There was security in the automobile industry, but they’re not selling automobiles right now, and things are going to take a hit.”