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Lenoir City to consider incentives to keep plant

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (AP) -- After a major manufacturer announced it would close its Lenoir City plant and lay off 200 people, the mayor says he will try to come up with an incentive package to keep the plant open.

The parent company of Yale Locks, ASSA ABLOY of Sweden, announced Friday they will close their Lenoir City plant and move operations to Connecticut.

Mayor Tony Aikens told WBIR-TV in Knoxville ( ) that he hopes the city can convince the company to remain and keep the jobs in Tennessee.

"We're having a special called council meeting on Monday to offer a tax incentive, we're optimistic that will help," Aikens said.

He hopes that state and county officials can come up with offers as well.

News of the closing came as a shock to employees, who have worked at the plant for years.

Union president Joe Williams said he was nine years away from retirement.

"It's been my life for 35 years," said Williams. "I've raised my family by working here. It's really been a tough situation."

Williams said the plant has been very successful and they ship about $350,000 worth of lock on a daily basis.

Employee Stacy Arthur said when she started working at the plant 17 years ago, the company had three shifts. But in recent years, the company has cut back on employees' hours, she said.

That forced her to pick up a second job as a gas station clerk. But she said recently work has picked up and she even worked overtime this week.

"We were so busy, so that's why it shocked us so much," says Arthur.

Both Arthur and her husband work at Yale Locks and now she's worried about how she'll support her three children.

Company officials said it may take months to finalize the closure and employees were told to report to work on Monday.

"I don't know how it's going to feel to walk back in there," Arthur said.

Lenoir City plant could close within a year

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - Millions of people across the country just lost the lottery.

Here at home, 230 people could soon lose their jobs.

Yale Locks and Hardware announced it's closing it's plant in Lenoir City.

The company has been a mainstay and a big employer for 60 years. But before they lock their doors for good, the Lenoir City mayor says he's gonna fight to keep the company here.

"Shock, disbelief. Saddened dramatically," said Cathy Ballard, a shipping coordinator.

That's how Ballard described her reaction to the news that her dream job for 24 years could soon be gone.

"It feels like a death or a divorce. That's what it feels like, a death," said Ballard.

"I came to work here one week out of high school. It's been my life," said Joe Williams, the union's president.

When Williams first started here, workers made the locks from scratch. A lot has changed since then: less workload and less employees.

One thing that hasn't? The desire to keep Yale Locks open.

"That was the first question, 'Is there anything we can do to change this, to reverse your decision?' That's when we were told this was a business decision," said Williams.

But Mayor Tony Aikens isn't throwing in the towel just yet.

"We're optimistic. We're having a specially called council meeting Monday morning to offer a tax incentive," said Aikens.

A last ditch effort to keep this place alive

"Sixty years, that's such a long time. So many families, so many people have worked here and raised their families," said Aikens.

Monday morning, Lenoir City officials will meet to draft an incentive offer to keep the plant open.

This is a statement from general manager of Yale Locks:

"Today it was announced by ASSA ABLOY Americas division management that as part of a global factory footprint reduction effort, production at the Yale Locks and Hardware plant in Lenoir City, Tennessee will be consolidated into existing operations at the company's largest U.S. manufacturing facility, located in Berlin, CT.

This transition is slated to occur over an extended period of time to ensure there are no product delivery interruptions. Yale product development and technical product support will continue to be located in Lenoir City.

The Yale brand and products are very well known and respected around the globe and it is planning to further expand its market position in the years to come."