Business

Pilgrim's Pride Plant, Jobs Leaving Siler City

Posted March 12, 2008 2:18 p.m. EDT
Updated March 12, 2008 8:45 p.m. EDT

— The nation's largest chicken-processing company is closing its plant in Siler City and laying off up to 1,100 employees.

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. said Wednesday the closure of the Chatham County facility is a result of soaring feed-ingredient costs resulting from corn-based ethanol production.

The closing is part of a plan to curtail losses amid record-high costs for corn, soybean meal and other feed ingredients and an oversupply of chicken in the nation, the company said in a news release.

Pilgrim's Pride is the second-largest employer in Chatham County.

"(It's) devastating for our local economy," Siler City Town Manager Joel Brower said.

The closure is a blow to the town budget as well. Pilgrim's Pride is the largest water and sewer customer, contributing about $1.2 million to the annual town budget. The company pays about $38,000 annually in taxes.

Elsewhere, the company will close distribution centers in Iowa, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio.

Clint Rivers, Pilgrim Pride president and chief executive officer, said the closures were necessary to "help bring supply and demand into better balance."

"That portion of the demand for our products that exists solely at pricing levels below the cost of production is no longer a demand that this industry can continue to supply," he said.

Further actions are also likely, the company said, and could include more closures and consolidation of properties.

Workers in Siler City found out about the planned closing Wednesday afternoon. Layoffs are expected between mid-May and early June and could result in the elimination of up to 1,100 jobs.

The N.C. Commerce Department’s Division of Employment and Training has contacted Pilgrim's Pride to offer assistance with transition programs, including job search and placement assistance, career counseling, labor market information and assessment of skills and needs.