Craig Harris/Macon County Times The Nestle Waters facility in Red Boiling Springs announced on Dec. 4 that it was ceasing production, effective immediately.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

The Nestle Waters facility in Red Boiling Springs announced on Dec. 4 that it was ceasing production, effective immediately.

RED BOILING SPRINGS - Some of the employees of the Nestle Waters plant showed up on Dec. 4 expecting a normal work day.

However, it proved to be much shorter as the workers were informed that the Red Boiling Springs facility was ceasing production, effective immediately.

"Obviously, it's a very difficult situation," Nestle Waters factory manager Dan Disney said. "Everyone is very close in the plant. It's a tight-knit group of people. A lot of people have worked together for 15 years. Even with the management and the people on the floor, we are very close.

"We try to stay transparent with our employees. We share with them, and they are very mature in handling things. It's a credit to them."

In a press release issued by Nestle, it pointed to a competitive nature of the industry of bottled water.

The press release read, "Bottled water is a highly competitive category. In response to the competitive situation, we are evolving our business to better align our current operations to meet our future needs and position the company for long-term success. As one step toward that goal, we have made the decision to cease production at the Red Boiling Springs facility, effective Dec. 4, 2018."

Company executives conducted a general communication meeting shortly after workers arrived and then held one-on-one meetings with the employees.

"We're always reviewing our structure and how we can most leverage our resources to meet the demand," Disney said. "As more analysis comes in, we make adjustments accordingly. Any business would always be evaluating in the operation.

"One factor that goes into here is (that) our plant was not positioned to be as adaptable as some of our sister plants. We can only produce one brand. We're limited with that."

Nestle Waters operates 24 other facilities in the United States, but no other plants have closed recently.

The closest plant to the Red Boiling Springs location is located in Indianapolis.

The number of employees has varied since the facility opened in 2004.

"It fluctuates up and down," Disney - who has been the factory manager since March of 2016 - said. "We would bring in seasonal employees.

"It's all about the summer holidays. People enjoy being outside. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day are the big times. That's our peak time."

The facility had two employee reductions earlier this fall, releasing eight employees in October and then 14 more in November.

The Dec. 4 announcement affects 43 employees.

"It's an outstanding plant," Disney said. "The employees are fantastic. It's a family atmosphere. They have awesome work ethic. As plant, they have performed very well. Just due to our constraints in certain area, it has made it difficult.

"It's difficult … it's a tough choice. Unfortunately, that's a part of the business climate."

Red Boiling Springs Mayor Joel Coe sees it as a significant loss for the city.

"The city is really going to be hit hard by this," Coe said. "We're going to lose $10,000 a month in utilities. It was even more in the summer."

Funds generated from Nestle's utility bills helped pay for two of the city's utility trucks, which cost $50,000 each.

However, Nestle Waters has been an asset to the community in other ways as well.

"They would donate everything," Coe said. "We'd ask them to do something, and they'd do it.

"It's just a big loss."

Though Nestle currently has no specific plans for the facility, Coe spoke with State Rep. Kelly Keisling last week, in addition to other area leaders, about the situation.

"We're going to try to help Nestle market it," Coe said. "It could be used for any manufacturing purpose. You have the water, gas and sanitary things set up in the plant."

Nestle Waters will temporarily retain a seven-member transition team, which will get the facility ready for shutdown and will fill orders as long as product remains in the warehouse.

All 43 employees will continue to receive a paycheck and health benefits through Feb. 2, and based on their years of service, they will receive a separation package at that point.

"It was difficult, but they were very appreciative toward how Nestle is taking care of them," Disney said. "It was more of the emotion of separation of from their co-workers and their (work) family."