The largest employer in Warren County is reducing its workforce.
Yorozu has opened a new plant in Alabama, a plant which is easing the workload demands of the Yorozu facility in Morrison, which employed more than 1,900 at its peak.
Yorozu’s workforce in Warren County is projected to stabilize around 1,200 employees. Yorozu America president Jack Phillips says the current workforce is around 1,600.
“Based on our current attrition numbers, there shouldn’t be a layoff situation,” said Phillips.
Opening the Alabama plant has been a four-year process for the tier 1 automotive supplier. Stamping began in January, while assembly and painting started in July.
Phillips emphasized there are no plans to close the Yorozu facility in Warren County, which has been operating for years beyond its intended capacity.
“As long as Nissan is making vehicles in Smyrna, this plant will be here,” said Phillips.
The plant in Morrison, known as Yorozu Automotive Tennessee or YAT, could not meet the volume needs of customers in the coming years, according to Phillips. The plant in Alabama will help from a logistics standpoint by serving customers in Alabama and Mississippi.
“The opening of a second plant in the U.S. does not diminish the strategic importance of YAT,” said Phillips. “YAT is critical to the Yorozu group and to our customers. YAT still has the largest sales of any Yorozu plant globally.”
The Alabama plant also gives Yorozu access to a fresh workforce. The extremely low unemployment rate in Warren County, 3.8 percent, and the entire state, 3.3 percent, has made finding capable workers a formidable task.
“YAT’s employment requirement simply outgrew the labor supply in Warren and surrounding counties,” said Phillips.
He explained that during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Yorozu closed a plant in Mississippi and ceased production at a plant in Michigan. All equipment was moved from those plants to Warren County.
“The automotive market recovered much more quickly than many expected and YAT’s sales and size grew much larger than the plant was ever designed to support,” said Phillips. “Our business and employment tripled from the end of the financial crisis to 2016 and sales at YAT far surpassed the total sales from all three plants combined prior to the recession.”