Middleton plant to close by 2018
Job losses: Limerick plant employs 280 Relocation: Parent company Altria plans to move operations to Richmond, Va.
Altria, the parent company of John Middleton, a cigar and pipe tobacco plant in Limerick, announced Thursday it will be closing the plant and relocating operations by early 2018.
Company officials began notifying the facility’s 280 employees about the plans on Thursday morning.
The Limerick plant makes Black & Mild cigars, Middleton’s Cherry Blend pipe tobacco and other products. John Middleton’s operations will be moved to Altria’s manufacturing center in Richmond, Va.
The John Middleton plant is one of two facilities Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, said it will close. The other facility, in Franklin Park, Ill., has 300 workers and makes Copenhagen, Skoal and other smokeless tobacco products.
Altria spokesman David Sutton said company officials were on-site at John Middleton on Thursday to talk about the decision.
“We have been holding a series of meetings with employees in Limerick starting with the first shift and then subsequent shifts — to let employees know what is occurring and how it will go through the first quarter of 2018. We’re talking about what the process will be like and benefits if employees decide not to transfer,” Sutton said in an interview. “We hope as many employees as possible will make the move to Richmond.”
Full-time workers that do not transfer will be given a
“We’re talking about what the process will be like and benefits if employees decide not to transfer. We hope as many employees as possible will make the move to Richmond.” – Altria spokesman David Sutton
minimum of six months of severance, in addition to benefits and free job training, according to The Associated Press.
“We recognize that this is a big impact on the employees and their communities and want to make sure everyone had the chance to talk with company leadership,” he added.
The company did not say how many workers might ultimately be laid off from the Limerick facility, but Sutton added that the company anticipates a need for about 100 employees in the Richmond facility once the transfer is completed. He said that current John
Middleton employees will be given the opportunity to make the move to Richmond or move to jobs at other Altria facilities. He added that the positions in Richmond would include both predominantly hourly employees as well as some salaried opportunities.
As of midday Thursday, Limerick officials said they had not received a formal notice from Altria about the closing. An emailed response to the closing on behalf of the Limerick Township Board of Supervisors and Township Manager Daniel Kerr read, “The township is, of course, saddened to hear the news primarily for all those who will now lose their jobs. The John Middleton organization has been a staple within this township
for many years and have been wonderful community partners. They have offered support to our police and volunteer fire companies and many other community-based groups.
“It is upsetting to lose a large manufacturing operation; while it is too early to fully understand the fiscal impact it may have on the township, Limerick continues to be a desired destination for many businesses. While the closing of the John Middleton plant is upsetting, we remain confident in the overall vitality of the Township and hope those who are losing their jobs will be able to find employment locally and remain within our community,” the statement continued.
The company said the
closures are expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2018 and would save Altria about $50 million by the end of that year.
“We’re constantly looking to maximize efficiencies in our operations. It’s about looking to assess ways to streamline and drive greater efficiencies. Now is the time to make these moves,” Sutton added.
According to the company’s website, John Middleton founded the company in 1856, when he opened a tobacco shop in downtown Philadelphia. In 1950, the company began manufacturing some of its products. In 1958, the retail operation was shut down as the company shifted focus completely to manufacturing at a facility in Philadelphia.
Manufacturing was moved to King of Prussia in 1960, and in 1998, the Limerick facility began operation. In 2007, John Middleton was acquired by Altria.
The company’s Black & Mild brand of cigars is the second-largest selling large machine-made cigar in the U.S., according to information on the website. And in 2015, the company’s total retail share was 27.7 percent. Altria companies’ employees, including employees at the John Middleton, participate in an employeefunded charitable giving program — the Altria Companies Employee Community Fund. In 2016, a total of $235,000 in grants was distributed to 15 nonprofits in Pennsylvania, including several agencies in the tri-county area. The grants support organizations that focus on hunger relief, youth and senior services, homelessness, domestic violence and emergency services.
John Middleton’s leaf processing plant in King of Prussia was not part of the announcement. According to Sutton, the plant has recently gone through “upgrades and modernization.”
Thursday’s announcement about the consolidations came as Altria, which also makes Virginia Slims and Parliament cigarettes, reported a 29 percent drop in profit for its most recent quarter, but its adjusted earnings still beat expectations.
An exterior shot of the John Middleton manufacturing facility in Limerick. Operations at the facility, which employs 280, will be relocated to Richmond, Va., by early 2018, it was announced Thursday.
A close-up shot of the large machine-made cigar manufacturing process taken at the John Middleton facility in Limerick. The plant, which employs 280, will be closed by early 2018 and operations moved to Virginia.