Ice storm causes loss of jobs, tourism

By Carly O'Keefe
MARION, IL (KFVS) - For some, the damage of Winter Storm '09 made things harder in an already difficult economy.
When ice began to accumulate on top of the Williamson County Pavilion, the roof did not collapse, but the extra weight caused quite a few problems inside.
"There's no noticeable damage to the outside.  It's when you walk through the door that you can see ceiling tiles hanging down sprinkler heads hanging down," said Chief Anthony Rinella of the Marion Fire Department.
Rinella ordered the building be closed until engineers can fully assess the pavilion's structural integrity.  Scheduled events had to be cancelled, which meant fewer tourism dollars coming in to the Marion area.
"They had a boat show, one of their annual boat shows scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It had to be cancelled. It's revenue they needed, but we're putting safety first," said Rinella.
Across town, there's no question about the Southern Pride building's structural safety.  The damage is visible from the parking lot on Meadowlands Road.  Ice caused the plant's roof to cave in last Wednesday.
"Insurance has ruled the facility a total loss," said Southern Pride Director of Operations Bill Shanks.
Southern Pride has been building industrial BBQ smokers in Marion since 1976.  However, according to Shanks, when the ice storm crushed its manufacturing plant it forced the company out of town.
"We already own a 115,000 square foot building in Alamo, Tennessee, so in order to get production up and meet our customers' demands, our only real option is to move to Tennessee," Shanks said.
A handful of employees will remain in Marion indefinitely to continue Southern Pride's sales, marketing, accounting, parts and services departments.  The built up ice and snow dealt a crushing blow to 30 manufacturing employees who likely didn't need any more weight on their shoulders in a rough economy.
"We had a lot of good employees, we had a state of the art facility which is not going to be replaced. We're gonna miss that as well as the people," said Shanks.
Southern Pride will be moving what supplies and equipment were not damaged by the collapse in the coming days and weeks to Alamo, Tennessee where the hope is the company can resume production as soon as possible.