As the Memorial Day weekend and the summer season approached this past week, Pinnacle Foods Group LLC announced plans to close its Vlasic pickle production plant in Millsboro by year-end, affecting nearly 200 full-time year-round employees, along with many seasonal employees.
In a press release, Pinnacle representatives stated that they planned to “further improve the efficiency of [the] supply chain by consolidating its Vlasic pickle production into one plant in Imlay City, Mich.” They explained that the decision was based on the company focusing more on its branded Vlasic business and de-emphasizing its lower-margin, un-branded pickle business.
Amy Simmons of the Millsboro Chamber of Commerce said the town will feel the effects of the shut-down.
“It will certainly affect the community in some way,” Simmons said. “A lot of the people that work there live here. And those people buy gas and groceries — all things that may come to a halt.”
Pinnacle’s statement noted that the employees in Millsboro have been a valued part of the business but said that the Michigan plant was a more viable option for the “long term.”
“It is never an easy decision to close a plant. We came to this conclusion only after a detailed analysis of all potential options, which determined that the Imlay City plant is the most viable choice for the long term,” said Tony Fernandez, Pinnacle’s executive vice president and chief supply-chain officer. “The employees in Millsboro have been a valued part of our business and their dedication and contributions to the company are appreciated,” he said.
Pinnacle Foods representatives said that they are committed to treating all employees with fairness and respect during the transition and noted that all Millsboro employees will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at other Pinnacle facilities, as well as to receive professional career-support services. They also said a minimum of 60 days’ notice prior to final closure of the plant will be provided to all Millsboro employees.
“I give them credit for giving the employees this much notice,” said Simmons, but she questioned how many would take the option of working at another Pinnacle facility.
Elizabeth Rowland of Pinnacle Foods Corporate Communications explained that the majority of the positions at the plant are in manufacturing but she said they also have employees in plant management, human resources, safety and other salaried positions.
State officials, many of whom have spoken repeatedly about bringing manufacturing jobs back to Delaware, expressed their disappointment in the announcement of the plant’s imminent closure. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he and Gov. Jack Markell had invited the other members of the congressional delegation, and representatives from the Delaware Department of Economic Development, the Department of Labor, and the Sussex County government had plans to visit the plant this week.
“I am deeply saddened by the news Pinnacle Food Corporation’s Vlasic pickle production plant in Millsboro will be closing by the end of the year,” said the senator. “We will make this an all-hands-on-deck effort to help those impacted by this decision during the plant’s transition.”
“During earlier visits to the plant, I have met many of the hundreds of employees and I also know many of the local farmers who source the company’s cucumbers,” Carper added. “My thoughts are with them during this difficult time. I often say, ‘In adversity lies opportunity,’ and we will work hard to identify a new tenant so, hopefully, neither the facility nor the employees will be idle for long.”
U.S. Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) said he, too, was disappointed to learn of the company’s plan to close the plant.
“My thoughts go out to the workers and their families that are impacted,” he said, adding that he will remain in close contact with the Delaware Department of Labor to ensure that they are “supported with the transitional assistance and training opportunities they deserve.”
He also said he would be working with the governor, the rest of the congressional delegation, and the Economic Development Office to bring new opportunities to the plant and region as quickly as possible.
Simmons expressed similar wishes.
“Hopefully, a new business can come in and give a boost to the economy.”
Further information on the closure is available at www.pinnaclefoods.com.