It’s official.

DeLuxe Media Services, the North Little Rock facility that began business as Rank Video, has told employees that it would be shutting the plant down in a phased process that will result in complete closure by the end of March.

The plant once employed as many as 850, but a company spokesman said that number had dropped to around 500 today. The facility began as a producer of videocassettes. A spokesman said the company was “behind the curve” as video technology shifted to DVD format and sales volume didn’t rise to the level necessary to keep the plant open.

Employees are receiving the news in meetings today. Some are on weekend break and will learn of the closure through news accounts.

The company’s release is on the jump. It mentions continued efforts to sell the plant, a prospect that conceivably could mean a resumption of similar work  there.

Todd Larson, executive director of the North Little Rock Economic Development Corporation, said the city had been working since March with two companies interested in the facility, but a deal was dependent on either of the prospects striking sufficient video copying deals with major studios to justify the expense of leasing the plant. He said he was “reasonably optimistic” because of the good quality of the plant, its state-of-the-art equipment and the presence of a trained workforce. If that doesn’t work out, he said the Metropolitan Regional Alliance is working with an industrial prospect seeking a building of the size of DeLuxe – about 700,000 square feet.