The news came in a text message.
“With heavy hearts we must inform you …” it read.
A little more than a week after an EF-3 tornado obliterated their building, with eight team members trapped in the back after the storm cleared, Delfield told employees it would be closing its Covington plant.
They found out earlier this week, days after the company filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letter with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Of the layoff, Delfield said as “a direct result of a storm and what are believed to be one or more tornados, our facility is damaged to the extent that we cannot continue operations at this time.”
In its text message to employees, Delfield said it’d take 9-12 months to rebuild the plant. Operations have been relocated to Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
“This will regrettably result in permanent displacement for our employees, and employment, pay, and benefits will cease on 4/30/2023,” the message read. “We understand that this news is distressing, and we want to reassure you that we are dedicated to supporting our employees during this challenging time. We will be collaborating with Cov (sic)officials to help our employees find new opportunities. We will initiate unemployment for employees, with effective 5/1/2023.”
Delfield, which has been located on South College Street since 1985, manufactures restaurant grade refrigeration products. It is owned by Welbilt.
Employees took to Facebook to share the text message and express their frustrations, one employee stating they would have celebrated their 16th work anniversary on the day benefits expire. Another said the closure hurt just as badly as the tornado’s destruction.
Displaced employees are encouraged to visit the Cobb Parr Park donation distribution center for assistance during the transition. Unilever and the West Tennessee Penitentiary have offered to interview displaced employees.
Mueller Industries and H.T. Hackney, Delfield’s neighbors in the South College industrial site, also took a direct hit from the March 31 tornado. No layoffs or closures have yet been announced by those companies.