Jonesboro manufacturing plant closing by July

After more than 50 years in business in Jonesboro, the last remaining AstenJohnson factory will be closing by July 1, the company announced Wednesday.

A total of 39 people are employed at the Battlecreek Road factory, which makes press fabric, a type of textile product used in the paper-making process.

Rebecca Harper, a company spokeswoman, said AstenJohnson opened the first of three plants in Jonesboro in 1958. When all three were operational, the company employed as many as 200.

The company, which is based in Charleston, S.C., closed one of the Jonesboro plants in 2000 and another in 2003, Harper said. The plant expected to close by July opened in 1980.

In a statement released Wednesday, Harper said imports, and soaring energy costs, have led to a number of mergers and acquisitions in the paper industry in the last decade as manufacturers work to remain competitive.

"The Jonesboro closure will better align AstenJohnson's press fabric capacity with North American market demand," Harper said.

"This action in no way reflects on the work ethic or performance of our Jonesboro associates," Dean Landry, the site leader for the Jonesboro plant, said in the statement. "They are considered the company's benchmark in safety with no lost-time-recordable injuries for five years."

Harper said the 39 employees at the plant will be eligible to apply for any open positions there may be at a company plant in Clinton, S.C.

She said the company will offer them outplacement assistance and severance packages.