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ConAgra to resume production at damaged Garner plant

Posted July 10, 2009

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— A ConAgra Foods plant in Garner will resume production of Slim Jim beef jerky products by the end of the month – seven weeks after a fatal explosion that ripped the plant apart.

Company officials met with many of the plant's 900 employees Friday morning to discuss ramping the plant back up. Employees are expected to return on July 19, with production starting on July 27, spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said.

ConAgra Foods plant, Slim Jim plant in Garner Employees excited to return to Slim Jim plant

The June 9 explosion at the Jones Sausage Road plant killed three workers and injured dozens more. Investigators said they believe natural gas from an industrial water heater that was being installed in the plant exploded.

One person remains in critical condition in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, and two others were in good condition Friday at the burn center.

ConAgra officials said previously they hoped to resume limited production at the plant in August. Some Slim Jim production will be handled by a ConAgra plant in Ohio, and the company plans to hire an outside firm to package the products made in Garner because the packaging area of the plant remains heavily damaged.

The supply of Slim Jim products on store shelves is running low across the country, officials said, because the Garner plant was the only place that made Slim Jims and ConAgra had only a 40-day inventory available when the explosion halted production.

Employees said they are excited to get back to work.

"Their main concern is safety – our safety. So they're putting a lot of things in place to help us out, make sure we get back to work and feel safe about being in the building," Keith Culbreth said.

"They're providing us with all sorts of counselors and everything," Frankie Pettiford said. "We're going in looking to rebuild and do it better than ever."

A few dozen workers were called back to the plant a week after the explosion to try to clean up some of the less-damaged areas.

"(They were) trying to get the old meat out, sanitizing, cleaning and putting things on the trailers for them to fumigate the plant," employee Norman Malisos said.

ConAgra has provided full pay and benefits to all workers since the explosion, but employees said they're eager to start earning their paychecks again.

"We just thank God they're staying in this area and they're providing for our families, looking after us even though we're not working," Pettiford said.

10 Comments

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  • ranquick Jul 10, 4:22 p.m.

    I am surprised they are waiting so long to Ramp back up, when I was in service and we had accidents we tried really hard to ramp back up as quick as possible in order to get the people back in the productive mode and not ponder on what happen as long.

  • csswisher Jul 10, 3:55 p.m.

    I know the people need to get back to work as soon as possible. I hope they can be more careful this time and that nothing catastrophic happens ever again.

  • wardjammer22 Jul 10, 3:06 p.m.

    How do you get a mfg plant rebuilt in NC, Let it blow-up.

  • pinball Jul 10, 2:17 p.m.

    What is interesting is I used to see Raleigh listed as where they were made but now all I see is the address listed for the Omaha NE plant.

  • LOC Jul 10, 12:45 p.m.

    I hope these people get to work soon. I read in a garner newspaper that a worker was killed on a motorcycle three weeks after he had escaped the ConAgra explosion. How sad!

  • Aussielady Jul 10, 11:24 a.m.

    I believe that Slim Jims are the only thing made and packaged at this plant. When it use to be GoodMark Foods, beef jerky and other products were made at the west coast plant. They also use to make Jesse Jones hotdogs and bologna.

  • mcondor Jul 10, 11:17 a.m.

    According to the CBS Early Show they produce all the Slim Jim products, and what is on the shelves is it - there is not much
    if any inventory warehousd.

    - Mark

  • SME2 Jul 10, 11:09 a.m.

    You would only see their headquarters address on any packaging.

  • computer trainer Jul 10, 11:06 a.m.

    That is great news. To be honest, we cannot have more unemployed people, and it will help these people to be able to get back to their routine.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jul 10, 10:57 a.m.

    Would be nice to know specifically what Slim Jim products they manufacture. Since the plant explosion, I have been taking notice of the Manufacturers information on the Slim Jim packaging when I purchase them. I have yet to see one with the Garner plant's address.