Local community braces for impact of major layoff


Kendall Downing

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. - One of the largest employers in Franklin County, Illinois is shutting down and other businesses from restaurants to food pantries are bracing for the impact.

Friday, Canadian-based Bombardier Recreational Products announced its plans to shutter the sport boat plant in Benton, Illinois.

The facility on East Illinois Street in Benton employed 340 people.

The company said it's getting out of the sport boat business because of a drop in sales. That decision has many in the community walking on eggshells.

"It was disbelief, and then we were worried about our customers," said Andrea Cain, at the Cozy Table Restaurant.

Cain said the news still makes her and the whole staff uneasy.

"We weren't the only ones that depended on those people," she said.

The restaurant hopes to expand its service this fall by starting deliveries of lunch to the plant. Those plans, like the jobs are up in smoke.

"That would have been every thirty minutes orders going out," she said.

Meanwhile across the county, Jane Pinkham wonders how many people will come through the doors at the Thompsonville Community of Christ church looking for food next month.

"We are going to be stretched. But we are going to make it," she said.

The pantry started in 2004 serving about four people a month in the church's gym. The location hasn't changed, but the need has. Pinkham and crew now feed two hundred each month and counting.

"It looks like it's getting worse, and they're going to need more and more food," she said.

Those like Cain continue to play the waiting game.

"There's 350 people unemployed. There's not going to be able to find jobs somewhere else," she said.

A plant manager said 30 people will stay employed there through the end of the year putting the plant into shutdown mode. It should be completely empty by the first of next year.