Shaw Industries will wind down operations at its spun yarn facility in Chatsworth, Ga., over the next few weeks, affecting 306 workers.
Company officials say the closing is part of the overall shift away from spun and stapled yarn to new filament-based carpet, which customers say is more durable and has a better feel.
"Stapled fibers are just going away, not altogether, but they're on the decline," said Al Scruggs, director of human resources at Shaw Industries. "There is really no master plan there, but that's where customers are going."
Kemp Harr, publisher of Floor Focus magazine, said the closing of the Murray County plant is part of Shaw changing its processes to adapt to technology and demand. Shaw closed similar Georgia plants in Ringgold, Trenton and Calhoun, and Stevenson, Ala., in 2008 and 2009.
The Ringgold closure cut about 430 jobs before 200 employees were moved to another plant in Calhoun. Overall, Shaw eliminated more than 1,700 jobs at yarn plants in the Tri-State area in 2008 and 2009.
Employees at Plant 82 will be offered jobs at one of the other three Shaw plants in Chatsworth, or at nearby facilities, Scruggs said.
"They're obviously disappointed, but I think people are taking it well," Scruggs said after talking to the workers at Plant 82.
The company still employs 1,200 to 1,300 workers in the Murray County town.
Tom Starnes, Murray County manager and interim commissioner, said the plant closing will hurt the local job market where unemployment in February already was at 12.1 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
"With our current unemployment situation this could really compound that," said Starnes.
The plant is one of the largest operations in the county, he said.
Plant 82 was originally built by Dixie Yarns in 1967, according to Harr. Armstrong E&B purchased it in 1985 before Shaw bought E&B in 1990.
"That's a large, large employer for Murray County," said Starnes. "This is a real hit to our community."
Shaw has known for some time that it would close the plant, Scruggs said. The carpet giant has allowed regular attrition to open up positions at other facilities throughout the region to support the newly jobless workers.
Scruggs said Shaw has no plans to shutter its only remaining spun yarn plant in Valley Head, Ala.
Though carpet mills struggled to stay profitable during the recession, the Chatsworth closing is not driven by poor market conditions, Harr said. In fact, demand in the floorcoverings industry has stabilized in recent months after declining over the last few years. It even has even trended upward slightly in recent months.
Shaw had pieces it didn't need after it grew by acquiring parts of other companies, Harr explained.
"At the time when Shaw was acquiring everybody, stapled yarn was the way to go," he said. "You don't use the same assets (for filaments)."
Once the housing market picks up, Shaw should have its properties and processes in line, said Harr.
"Shaw is well positioned for growth as the demand for carpet ramps back up," he said.