By Louie Graves
and John R. Schirmer
The planned December 2024 closing of Husqvarna’s operation in Nashville will have far-reaching effects on the city, Howard County and the surrounding areas, according to officials in government, education and healthcare.
Husqvarna announced July 17 that the Nashville plant and warehouse will close at the end of 2024, leaving officials to plan ways of coping with the loss of jobs, salaries and taxes.
Nashville School District
“We’re awfully concerned,” Superintendent Doug Graham said. “Our thoughts and concerns go to the 700-plus families that will be affected.”
Graham said it is “too early to know all the ramifications” of the Husqvarna closure.
“For a community the size of Nashville to lose that many jobs is devastating. It gives us a sick feeling. I hope we’ll be okay.”
Graham said the district’s share of Husqvarna’s taxes in Howard County is close to $300,000. At some point, “That will be a $300,000 cut to the district.”
For the school, “The unanswered question is when the plant goes off the tax books. At some point in time, we’ll be $300,000 short,” Graham said.
Along with the loss of tax revenue, the district also will lose nearly $8,000 in state funding for each student who leaves the schools because of the closure. “If we lose 50 kids or 200 kids, that will compound the effect,” Graham said.
One of the district’s priorities during registration will be to poll every family associated with Husqvarna “to see how many we could lose. By mid-August, we should have a better idea,” according to Graham.
Howard Memorial Hospital
At Howard Memorial Hospital, officials are “in the process of trying to quantify the financial impact of the loss” of Husqvarna personnel “who have used HMH for services in the past,” CEO Debra Wright said.
“Obviously, we think this is devastating news for our local economy and will have a far-reaching impact on all economic drivers, not just healthcare,” Wright said. “I think all the stakeholders need to meet … to have a better understanding of the consequences to each of them to start the dialogue
about what the options are going forward.”
Another suggestion, Wright said, would be to host a jobs fair later in the year “so that all the employers who have open positions could advertise those job openings as well as explain the application process, salary and benefits offered, etc. The purpose of the jobs fair would be to prevent workers from leaving our area communities.”
Even though HMH “raised its minimum starting wage to $15 per hour and offers very competitive healthcare and retirement benefits, we still struggle to fill vacant entry level positions. Other employers may have the same challenges,” according to Wright.
City of Nashville
Monday morning, Nashville Mayor Larry Dunaway said there were no new developments in the announced 2024 closure of Husqvarna, a loss of about 700 jobs here.
He said he understood that beginning in January 2024 there would be some phased layoffs. He said that a tax abatement of 30% was given to Husqvarna for two properties — the giant new warehouse, and the solar farm which is located at the Oxbodies plant north of town.
The tax advantage is transferrable to any new owners, he said, and would last until 2028.
He echoed statements from the county judge about organizing support for the Husqvarna employees in addition to working to attract new industry.
The mayor said will re-organize an Economic Development Commission comprised of business leaders to work to restore the jobs.
County Judge Brent Pinkerton said he expected a lengthy but eventually successful process to interest some other industry in the existing facilities here. He said it was good that the company would be a presence here until Dec. 2024, but it made finding a replacement industry harder because the state could not promote facilities which weren’t available.
He and Nashville Mayor Larry Dunaway attended a meeting in Little Rock in which support for Husqvarna employees was “the number one priority.”
He also recognized the economic impact on the area. “There is nothing that won’t be affected by the loss of payroll.” The loss of jobs will have an impact on surrounding towns, not just Nashville.
The judge also said that there will be an Aug. 1 meeting planned here with state agencies for supporting employees and dealing with a search for new employers.
Rose Ray, administrator of the Howard County Children’s Center, said that the center is taking steps to find work for adult clients who previously earned income doing sub-assemblies for Husqvarna. “We’re working on it.”
She said she was so preoccupied with finding work for the clients she had “forgotten” about the loss of Husqvarna’s annual bass tournament, which is one of the three big fund-raisers for the center. “At least we might have that one more year,” she said hopefully.
The affected clients may find some work cleaning buildings such as at the city park. Clients will continue packaging “What’s Cooking?” bags of soups, dips, etc.
At the time of the close-down announcement, 79 adults at the center worked on Husqvarna sub-assemblies.