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Help is on the way for locked-out employees

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Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:02 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Alicia Lacy

Killeen Daily Herald

GATESVILLE – It looks open. But, it's certainly not.

Country Ford of Gatesville, operated by Gatesville Automotive Ltd., closed its doors Saturday with no advance notice and laid off all its employees.

The dealership appears to be open, but with a closer look at any of the entrances, visitors find letter-sized signs on all the doors stating, "Country Ford is closed for business until further notice. We apologize for the inconvenience."

As a result of the closure, 15 to 20 individuals are out of work.

The Gatesville Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission in Killeen to form a rapid response team for those who lost their jobs.

"Our president got with the Texas Workforce Commission in Killeen, and they said they would bring in a rapid response team and help any of them that are looking for a job," Susan Jackson, Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Tuesday.

Because of the closure, another issue has arisen for those in Gatesville who use the dealership for service and repairs to their vehicles, especially if the vehicle is under a Ford ESP warranty.

Debbie Hunt, service manager of Johnson Brothers Ford in Temple, said individuals with a Ford ESP warranty can have their vehicle serviced only through Ford. If it's a non-Ford warranty, vehicles may be serviced elsewhere.

"I don't think it'll hurt them at all. We have other repair shops here in town that work on all kinds of cars. There's dealerships in Temple, Waco and Goldthwaite," Jackson said.

Despite the closure of Country Ford, business has been good for nearby dealerships Mike Craig Chevrolet-Pontiac-Buick and Mike Craig Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep.

"The business climate is good, I just sold two this morning and I've got three at the other store today. We're just going through one of those spells," said Mike Melton, Mike Craig general manager. "It's been this way about the last three months or so. I haven't seen anything just absolutely sink. It's steady, just not the numbers that we've had."

Melton manages about 50 employees at both dealerships.

Company officials had a groundbreaking in February 2006 for the 21,000-square-foot Country Ford dealership in Gatesville on six acres on the North Highway 23 bypass. It replaced a leased 14,000-square-foot location.

The earlier location had a staff of 25.

The dealership's sudden closure surprised at least one city official.

Gatesville Assistant City Manager Luis Lobo on Monday said, "It was really fast. They were open Friday and not open Saturday."

It is uncertain if or when the dealership will reopen.

Lobo said Monday cars were still on the lot, but he did not know what would be done with the property now.

Several calls to Gatesville Automotive Ltd. were unanswered Tuesday.

Contact Alicia Lacy at alacy@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476.

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