Unifirst Corporation in Cave City announced June 11 the planned closing of its 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The closing will result in the layoff of approximately 185 employees by Aug. 30. Unifirst began production in 1990 and manufactured uniform dress shirts, work shirts and knit shirts.Unifirst General Manager Gary Nelson said the closing was a result of general economic conditions and the financial impact on the company running three manufacturing plants at a time of reduced demand. "We regret having to close this facility but have determined that at present our two newer manufacturing operations can fully handle current product requirements," Nelson said. "I have been very pleased with the level of understanding our employees have exhibited to this announcement. I think that's because UniFirst has shown we care about our employees and that we are going to do all we can to help with this transition. We are truly appreciative for all the years of support our local employees and the greater Cave City community have given to us." Nelson said the company's other plants are located in Mexico where the workforce can be hired at a much cheaper rate. He said many of the company's competitors have relocated out of the country. "If we want to remain competitive we have to go out of the country as well," Nelson said. According to Nelson, the company sent out 60-day notices June 11. All of the current employees will remain on staff until the end of 60 days. After that time the company will begin "sewing down" and working out any garments in progress. Nelson said UniFirst is in the process of contacting the governor's Dislocated Workers Taskforce, the Arkansas Employment office in Batesville, the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, Ozarka College and the Batesville and Cave City chambers of commerce to explore possible employment and educational opportunities for all employees. Nelson said UniFirst Corporate Human Resource Department has worked with federal agencies to get NAFTA and TAA certification for the facility and will be traveling from corporate offices to speak directly with employees concerning benefits and answering their concerns. Nelson said all of the employees are eligible for NAFTA benefits and training. The employees will also receive severance packages.UniFirst is the second shirt factory in the area to close its doors and relocate its manufacturing plant out of the country. Tri-County Shirt Factory in Salem closed its doors in November 2001 citing its inability to compete with manufacturers located outside of the United States.