A local business has officially informed it's nearly 240 employees their services will no longer be needed as of May 31 when the facility plans to close their doors.
Bremner Food Group, located at 400 Industrial Blvd., in Poteau, is a division of the St. Louis based Ralcorp Holdings and on Wednesday afternoon Ralcorp Vice President of Human Resources, Steve Smith, confirmed the plant would close.
During a committee meeting held in Fort Smith recently the company notified the employees they would stop production at the local plant on May 31 with most employees no longer needed. The company informed those at the meeting some employees will be retained until June 29 to remove equipment from the plant. Lay-offs are scheduled to begin next Tuesday.
The fate of the employees severance package and benefits are still up in the air until a scheduled meeting for further negotiation next week to be held in Poteau.
“We have spoken with Bremner for the last two years and today's announcement came as a surprise,” said Mayor Jeff Shockley. “The City will do it's best to negotiate with RalCorp to potentially market or acquire the facility two put people back to work as soon as we can.”
According to Shockley, he contacted the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in reference to the closure of Bremner and was informed the Fast forward team from the ODC would assist the displaced employees with unemployment benefits, education and training for re-entry into the workforce.
The economic hardship placed on both the employees and the surrounding community due to the closure could potentially be devastating.
“The news is a great negative impact not only to the city, but the county and region,” said Karen Wages, C.E.O. Of the Poteau Chamber of Commerce. “Bremner has been a great corporate citizen for many years and top employer. The loss of jobs is right on the heels of the Whirlpool shutdowns. The Chamber has plans to host a job fair in April.”
Last year, nearly to the day, employees were threatened with a mass lay-off in which the company laid blame for the action due to reduction of seasonal demand and other volume declines within the company. BFG is the nations largest manufacturer of crackers, cookies and other confections. The employ close to 10,000 employees nation wide at seven plant locations.
The potential lay-offs raised the attention of local officials and the representatives of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, local 346. The large number of employees who were scheduled to lose their jobs failed to come to fruition as negotiations took place. That has since come to change.
According to Ralcorp's website, their net sales were over $4.7 billion in 2011 and their operations include more than 40 manufacturing facilities. With more than 10,000 employees in the United States, Canada and Italy, each of their locations offers an environment that values every employee.