MUSCATINE, Iowa (Oct. 9)—Bandag Inc. plans to phase out production at its Chino, Calif., tread manufacturing plant over the next three to four months but will continue operating a distribution center there. The move will affect approximately 49 employees; Bandag said it is working to minimize the impact on employees by means of a combination of early retirement programs, transfers to other Bandag facilities and the addition of up to 10 jobs at the Chino distribution center. The company said it will provide severance and is committed to helping find employment in the marketplace for those employees unable to transfer or find other jobs within the organization. Bandag Vice President of Manufacturing Nate Derby said decision to close the plant was particularly difficult because the employees there have had a strong tradition of excellence. The plant received ISO-9002 certification in 1998, which he called a testament to the high quality of work performed there. "Unfortunately, this decision was driven by factors outside our control, including slowing market demand and the nation´s highest energy costs, which severely distort costs in the energy-intensive tread production process," Derby said.