Goodyear’s temporary shutdown is another unneeded blow to the area following an already large slump in retail sales, temporary closures and reductions in store hours at businesses in the region, officials acknowledged Thursday.
“I just can’t imagine worse than having Goodyear joining our business shutdowns,” Danville City Councilman Fred Shanks said Thursday.
The plant’s announced halt in operations for the next few weeks, he said, will have a considerable effect on retailers and restaurants.
Councilman Gary Miller agreed.
“It’s a big blow, especially if they’re not paying their employees [during the shutdown],” he said. “These people aren’t getting paid; they’re not spending money. It’s a ripple effect throughout the whole economy.”
The Goodyear facility in Danville, which makes commercial truck and aviation tires, draws workers from across Southside Virginia and from over the border in North Carolina. It has about 1,900 workers and is the city’s largest private employer.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., based in Akron, Ohio, announced Wednesday that it was suspending manufacturing across its tire, retread and chemical plants in the United States, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia and Mexico during the coming days through at least April 3 or until further notice.
The company closed its facility in Peru earlier this week.
The temporary closure is “in response to the sudden decline in market demand resulting from the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release the company issued Wednesday night.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the company also would limit visitor access and business travel, implement remote working and social distancing and increase disinfection, according to the news release.
Goodyear spokeswoman Barbara Hatala said the phased shutdown will take place over a week at all of its plants.
“Time required to complete shutdown varies by plant and depends on a number of factors including size, equipment used and associated manufacturing processes,” Hatala said.
Danville’s interim economic development director Corrie Teague Bobe said it is uncertain what the closure’s effect will be on the region.
“It is too early to determine what the potential impact will be, but [we] hope that they can reestablish operations as quickly as possible,” Bobe said via email Thursday.
The city’s economic development office will provide information about available resources for local businesses and their employees through its website and social media pages, she said.
“Temporarily shutting down operations must have been a difficult decision by the leadership of Goodyear,” Bobe said. “This is a challenging time for all of our local businesses who are responsible for the safety of employees and customers while trying to maintain production and revenue goals.”
Said City Manager Ken Larking: “We’re hopeful they’ll be able to get back up and running as soon as possible.”
The paid leave benefits in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act — signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday — could provide some help for Goodyear employees, Larking added.
The new law also provides boosted unemployment benefits and free diagnostic testing for the virus.
The temporary shutdown will have adverse effects on the region, but looking out for everyone’s safety is paramount, said Alexis Ehrhardt, president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.
“Any closure, even temporary, will provide direct and indirect economic challenges for our region,” she said. “It’s imperative, however, that right now we put the health and safety of our colleagues and neighbors first. Our region is resilient and has demonstrated time and again that even in our darkest times, we come back stronger.”
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.