Food maker lays off 260 employees
An already bitter winter just got even worse for 260 workers.
ConAgra Foods, a packaged-food company based in Omaha, Neb., said yesterday that its Kentwood plant, at 4490 44th St. SE, will be ceasing production in May.
ConAgra plans to officially close the facility in July.
Research and development is expected to continue at the plant through February 2015.
The closing is a “cost-effective measure,” said Monique Farmer, a ConAgra spokesperson.
The plant’s 260 employees have been notified.
ConAgra is committed to helping the employees either transfer out of the company or to other ConAgra manufacturers, Farmer said.
“We are going to work very closely with them to provide them benefits and services or try to move them to other manufacturers at other company (locations),” Farmer said.
Investment in Kentwood
Closing the plant is move that doesn’t make a lot of sense to Rich Houtteman, deputy administrator at the city of Kentwood.
ConAgra bought the facility in 2009 for $73 million from Elan Nutrition, according to tax abatements, Houtteman said.
Since then, ConAgra has invested approximately $40 million into the facility, Houtteman said.
“It’s hard to get your head around it and understand it,” Houtteman said. “It’s just a large corporate entity making a business decision based on too much capacity. That’s all we can go on at this point.”
Local job market
ConAgra has a Wyoming location that will likely become a new home for some of the Kentwood plant workers, Houtteman said.
Houtteman added that Kentwood’s unemployment rate is at 5 percent, well below the national average, meaning there’s a good chance many of the employees could find jobs in Kentwood’s industrial market.