BENTON HARBOR – While sales and profits are up this quarter for Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp. The company announced 5,000 people will lose their job worldwide – 10 percent of the workforce.
A company spokeswoman would not say how many jobs locally. Whirlpool employs about 4,000 hourly, salaried workers and contractors in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan.
"If it wasn't for Whirlpool, I think we'd be hard-pressed to stay in business," said Charlie McGee, who owns Charlie's Piggin' and Grinnin' restaurant in Benton Harbor.
About a mile down the road, construction continues on the appliance maker's new home, but the company is cleaning house.
During a conference call, Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool's chairman and chief executive officer, said costs are rising and demand is not keeping up.
"During this quarter, we experienced weaker than expected global industry demand and elevated material costs," said Fettig.
Workers at the St. Joseph Tech Center learned about Whirlpool's goal to save $400 million dollars by 2013.
WSBT News Reporter John Paul asked several workers if they were worried about losing their job. Every worker refused to comment.
Whirlpool outlined how it will reduce costs and improve the bottom line.
Whirlpool will cut its workforce by 10 percent. 5000 workers will lose their jobs, including 1200 salaried employees.
The Fort Smith, Arkansas refrigeration plant will close. Operations there will move to other Whirlpool plants around North America.
Whirlpool will also look at other efficiencies.
As one of Berrien County's largest employers, is there a reason to worry?
"We look at what they've done, what their contributions are and what their commitments are to the community today," said Wendy Dant Chesser, with Cornerstone Alliance. "Those commitments have been strong. We have no reason to think their commitments to Michigan's great southwest won't be strong in the future."
Whirlpool has faced trouble before.
"It's a well-run company and they've been able to overcome those obstacles," said McGee, a former Whirlpool employee.
McGee says there's no reason why Whirlpool won't bounce back again.