MATTOON, Ill. (AP) — A General Electric plant scheduled to close this summer in Illinois has held an open house for about 3,000 past and current employees.
Plant Manager Jeff Doyle told the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier that the event was originally scheduled to happen last year, for the plant's 70th anniversary.
But officials delayed the event after the company announced in October that the GE Lighting Mattoon Lamp Plant would close in August.
"So, we just decided to push it off to this year and sort of have a great grand hurrah before we leave," Doyle said. "It gives all of the retirees one more chance to get in here and show all of their family where they used to work and what the plant used to look like.
"Eight months from now this entire plant will be empty."
Doyle said the plant and its workers are like a family, and many of employees are related. Retired employee Terry Jolly said his father, aunt and uncle worked in the plant. Jolly also met his wife there.
Jolly noted that when they first started working, "we were all single and you had 16,000 to 18,000 people here and everybody just started marrying each other."
The plant once employed 1,800 workers. Officials have said the facility is operating 60 percent below capacity because volume has decreased dramatically due to changes in the lighting industry.
Almost 150 employees remain at the plant, and nearly 38 percent of them are eligible for retirement. Bettie Smith, a production expeditor, is among those retiring.
"It's sad that an institution like this is going to close," Smith said. "This place made lots of people a nice living over the years."