Wis­con­sin cheese plant to close, plan­ning to elim­i­nate 300 jobs

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

Dairy Farm­ers of Amer­ica has an­nounced plans to close a cheese plant in Ply­mouth, elim­i­nat­ing 300 jobs.

The plant that makes Bor­den cheese and pri­vate-la­bel prod­ucts is ex­pected to be closed in Jan­uary be­cause it has out-of-date tech­nol­ogy and in­fra­struc­ture. It’s been op­er­at­ing since 1954.

“Busi­ness de­ci­sions that im­pact the lives of our em­ploy­ees are in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult,” John Stephens, the com­pany’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of con­sumer brands, said in a news re­lease. “This clo­sure in no way is a re­flec­tion of our ded­i­cated em­ploy­ees, who have done ex­cel­lent work here.

“Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite nu­mer­ous up­grades to this fa­cil­ity, it has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for us to re­main com­pet­i­tive in to­day’s mar­ket­place,” Stephens con­tin­ued.

The clo­sure comes de­spite a US$13.4 mil­lion pro­ject in 2011 to mod­ern­ize the plant, which in­cluded US$1.5 mil­lion in public fi­nanc­ing aimed at keep­ing it in op­er­a­tion. The public fi­nanc­ing in­cluded for­giv­able loans from the city of Ply­mouth, She­boy­gan County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp. and the Wis­con­sin Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials said they were sur­prised by the an­nounce­ment.

Ply­mouth City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Brian Yerges said of­fi­cials un­der­stood at the time the loans were made that the plant’s age was a prob­lem in the long run, but there was hope that the 2011 im­prove­ments would keep it op­er­at­ing for the fore­see­able fu­ture, lead to ad­di­tional in­vest­ments by the com­pany and even raise the pos­si­bil­ity of build­ing a new plant.

“We are a lit­tle sur­prised that the de­ci­sion was made so soon,” he told the She­boy­gan Press.

Mon­ica Massey, the com­pany’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent and chief of staff, said a por­tion of the for­giv­able loans need to be re­paid, and the com­pany in­tends to do so.

Yerges said city of­fi­cials are sort­ing through the terms of the fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive pack­age to see what they can re­coup.

Dairy Farm­ers of Amer­ica plans to pro­duce Bor­den cheese prod­ucts through a third-party man­u­fac­turer, and Stephens said the com­pany will help em­ploy­ees through the tran­si­tion.

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