Fujifilm to close Dayton plant, idle 84 employees next year in streamlining move

This 2011 file photo shows emergency workers gathering outside Fujifilm Hunt Chemical USA Inc. off Manufacturers Road in Dayton, TN , after a chemical spill.
photo This 2011 file photo shows building 6 of Fujifilm Hunt Chemical USA Inc. off Manufacturers Road in Dayton, TN after a chemical spill.

Fujifilm Hunt Chemicals U.S.A. Inc. is closing its plant in Dayton, Tenn., as part of a corporate streamlining of the Japanese chemical company.

Fujifilm Holdings America Corp. said Tuesday that its Fujifilm Hunt Chemicals subsidiary will shut down its Dayton plant by the end of next March, idling 84 employees at the Rhea County facility. The company said the closing was needed "to overcome market challenges" in the film processing and chemicals industry.

"This was a very hard business decision based on market conditions, which was reached only after considering many other options, and in no way reflects on the commitment and dedication of our Dayton employees," said Mark Nale, manager of the Dayton plant. "We know this news is difficult for our employees, their families and the community and we are preparing to provide transition support to the employees who are impacted."

The 66,700-square-foot plant in Dayton, which previously operated as Tennessee Valley Chemical and Tennessee Valley Performance Products, manufactures photographic chemicals, antioxidants, stabilizers, monomers, intermediates, additives and a variety of resins. Products manufactured in Dayton "will be rationalized, and when possible, transferred to other Fujifilm manufacturing facilities," company spokesman Matthew Schmidt said.

As of Oct.1, Fujifilm Hunt will become a direct subsidiary of Fuji- film Manufacturing U.S.A. Inc.

The closing of Fujifilm Hunt next year will come about six months after one of Dayton's biggest manufacturers, Goodman Manufacturing, closes its 600-employee plant this fall. Goodman, which was acquired by another Japanese-based manufacturer, Daikin Industries Ltd., makes heating, cooling and refrigerant products. The company is shifting its U.S. production now done in Dayton and Fayetteville, Tenn., to a new $417 million plant about to open in Houston.

Dayton Mayor Gary Louallen said the plant closings will be tough for Dayton, but he said the Rhea County Economic and Tourism Council he chairs is working to lure other industry to Dayton. And with the growth of other local manufacturers, including La-Z-Boy, Louallen said he thinks most of the displaced workers should be able to find employment elsewhere, especially since both Fujifilm and Goodman have announced their closing plans so far in advance.

"Our other local plants, and lots of other local businesses, are still looking to hire more workers," said Louallen, who owns the Eagle Exxon truck stop in Dayton. "If you're not working in Rhea County right now, you don't want a job."

Unemployment in Rhea County, which jumped to 14.7 percent at the start of 2010, has fallen by more than half to only 6.6 percent in April.

Louallen said city leaders have talked with several prospects looking to build or expand in Dayton and the council is building a 50,000-square-foot speculative building to house new businesses in the county's industrial park.

"These companies are asking about the availability of workers to staff their businesses if they locate here," he said. "So while this may be a negative for these companies and their workers, it also can be a kind of a positive because we're looking for people and sites and grow other businesses."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.