Trinity Barge, one of the largest employers in economically depressed Pemiscot County in Southeast Missouri, plans to lay off about 500 of its 545 workers in February.
Workers at the barge fabrication plant in Caruthersville, Mo., received notice of potential layoffs this week, just before the holidays. That's unless the plant, which is actively seeking new contracts, manages to bring in some new business, Trinity spokeswoman Nancy Farrar said Friday.
The barge fabrication plant is part of Trinity Marine Products, a division of Dallas-based Trinity Industries, an industrial manufacturing company.
Farrar did not say whether the plant might close if business worsens. Of the potential layoffs, she said, "Advance notification was given so employees can plan for the future." The company also is required by law to give notice of possible layoffs.
David Madison, executive director of the Pemiscot County Port Authority, said he believes demand for barge manufacturing has slowed.
"The barge industry is cyclical. After a while, like anything else, there can be a glut."
He said efforts are under way to bring new business to the region, but he's only hearing word of much smaller employers. Madison said if the layoffs occur, the region would suffer.
The county's 9.2 percent unemployment rate is tied with Wayne County, also in Southeast Missouri, for third worst in the state.
Only Linn County, in north-central Missouri, at 11.1 percent, and Douglas County, in southwest Missouri, at 9.6 percent, have higher unemployment rates, according to the most recent October figures from the state's Department of Economic Development.