1/24/97 -- 7:04 PM

Sunbeam Closing,0193

McMINNVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - More than 500 employees of the Sunbeam-Oster plant here will lose their jobs because the company is moving most of the operation to Mexico.

The company announced last November it was closing 18 of its 26 plants, but pledged to keep open the McMinnville plant, one of its most profitable.

Now, the company has opted to move most of the plant's electric hair clipper operations to Mexico to save on labor costs.

``This is necessary to our competitiveness in a global economy,'' said Ron Newcomb, vice president of manufacturing for Sunbeam, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Employees at the plant, which is 66 miles southeast of Nashville, were notified Tuesday that layoffs would start in May and conclude by October.

About 150 employees will remain at the plant to manufacture blades for the clippers, which will be assembled in Mexico.

Sunbeam Chief Executive Officer Albert Dunlap said last fall the home appliance manufacturer was eliminating half its 12,000 jobs, keeping only four U.S. plants and four in Mexico.

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