Rantoul auto parts supplier plans layoffs

RANTOUL – Another Rantoul auto parts supplier has been affected by a 12-week shutdown at the Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in Normal.

Reza Kargarzadeh, president of Engineered Plastic Components (EPC), said about two-thirds of the Rantoul plant's 55-member work force will be temporarily laid off beginning Thursday.

The remaining third will work on other business and special projects. The layoff is expected to last until about the first week in May. "The plan is that all of our people will be back to work," Kargarzadeh added.

Eagle Wings, which also supplies Mitsubishi, laid off 100 workers for a two-month period that began Jan. 30.

Mitsubishi, which employs about 1,000 union workers in Normal, recently announced a 12-week shutdown extending from Feb. 16 to May 8. It also offered a third round of buyouts to employees.

EPC's 55-member work force is down from the approximately 125 employees who Kargarzadeh said worked there in February 2008.

The Grinnell, Iowa-based company took over part of the operations of Collins & Aikman, which closed in the summer of 2007.

EPC also operates two plants in Iowa and one in Missouri and as of at least last year had contracts with Caterpillar and Whirlpool, in addition to automotive companies, Kargarzadeh said last year.

EPC owns a 20-acre site in Rantoul's industrial park, which includes Plant 1. Kargarzadeh said his company was buying the property from former operator Textron.

The company had occupied former plants 2 and 3 at 718 Veterans Parkway and 735 Pacesetter Drive, both of which it was leasing from the village of Rantoul, beginning in summer 2007. But it decided to move from those locations on the former Chanute Air Force Base and consolidate operations at Plant 1.

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