HERRIN - The Whirlpool Corporation announced this morning it will close the Herrin Maytag plant in December.

The Southern Illinois site, which employs about 1,000 people who manufacture washers and dryers, is one of three North American plants affecting by a consolidation effort by Whirlpool. The two other plants are in Newton, Iowa and Searcy, Ark. The work done at the plants will be consolidated into existing Whirlpool factory sites in Ohio.

Officials at Whirlpool said the reorganization to eliminate 3,000 positions within the company.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said this morning that he is launching an effort to save the plant. Blagojevich said he has directed the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to explore options. He also said he as asked the state's Rapid Response Team to suport workers in case it does close.

"Unfortunately, major corporations sometimes make decisions in the interests of spreadsheets and shareholders rather than families and communities," Blagojevich said in a statement.

"People in Southern Illinois have come to rely on Maytag as one of its largest employers, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to keep the plant, which is one of its most efficient facilities, open. But those hardworking men and women on the job today should also know that if the plant does close, we will offer comprehensive assistance to help families get back on their feet and make it through what would be a very difficult time."

The Rapid Response Team will be deployed on-site in Herrin to make sure workers are fully prepared for all future possibilities, including the closure of the plant, the governor said.

"If there is anything we can do to keep this important plant open, we are going to do it," State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said. "We want the Maytag employees to know that their jobs - and their families - are much more than statistics to us, and we will keep fighting for them. If this closing moves forward, we will not forget these workers and will help in every possible way."

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said: "Federal, state and local officials have been working closely on this issue, and we will not rest until we exhaust every option to keep Maytag up and running here in Southern Illinois where it belongs. If this unfortunate decision is final, these workers and their families will get all of the support and assistance they need to move on with their lives."

Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter said: "We are going to continue working together to find a creative solution that will keep Maytag in Southern Illinois and save these jobs."

See more coverage in tomorrow's Southern Illinoisan.

Read editor James Bennett's blog on the Maytag closing at http://www.thesouthern.com/bennettsblog/?p=15">http://www.thesouthern.com/bennettsblog/?p=15

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