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PIKEVILLE, Tenn. - Eclipse Manufacturing, one of Bledsoe County's largest employers, will close by May 1 and put 50 people out of work, state officials said.

"We received word on Feb. 23 that the Eclipse plant will close," said Martha Deakins, spokeswoman with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Eclipse Manufacturing makes custom, stamped-steel or tooled metal components and assemblies used by a variety of industries, according to the company's Web site.

Officials with Eclipse's corporate office in Sheboygan, Wisc., did not return calls Wednesday.

However, a Feb. 23 letter announcing the closure states the company "has decided to permanently close its plant" in Pikeville.

According to the letter, 17 press operators, 10 administrative workers, six robotic welder operators, six tool and die makers and 11 positions elsewhere in the plant will be lost.

Tony Gervolino, Pikeville-Bledsoe County Chamber of Commerce board chairman, lamented the loss.

"It's sad that we're losing jobs in this community; jobs are very scarce," Mr. Gervolino said.

He hopes Eclipse's building on Allen P. Deakins Road will lure a new tenant soon.

"The building's in great shape," he said. "We hope that vendors with VW will take a look at that and the other building in town."

The "other" building is the former Dura Automotive plant, which the city of Pike-ville bought late last year for $500,000.

"It's disheartening any time you hear of a plant closing," Bledsoe County Mayor Gregg Ridley said Wednesday.

"Given the state of the economy, we can only hope that we'll fill that building again very soon," Mr. Ridley said.

Labor and Workforce Development spokesman Jeff Hentschel said state officials will be at the plant March 2 to provide information on services such as resume development, interviewing skills, job placement assistance, labor market information and unemployment insurance.

"After that we'll schedule a meeting with employees," he said.

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