Slim Jim maker closes Garner plant Friday
Posted May 19, 2011 1:20 p.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2011 4:04 p.m. EDT
Garner, N.C. — A local maker of Slim Jim beef jerky products will shut its doors Friday, putting more than 200 people in the town of Garner out of work.
ConAgra Foods Inc. announced last year that it was moving production to Troy, Ohio, for a better cost structure and production expansion.
At its peak, the Garner plant employed approximately 700 employees, but about 350 were laid off in November 2009, five months after an explosion that killed four people.
ConAgra spokesman Dave Jackson said 216 people are currently employed there and that fewer than 20 will stay on to help close the site. Eleven employees requested transfers to other ConAgra plants, and all were granted the requests, Jackson said.
Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said Thursday that plans were in place to begin marketing the property to attract another manufacturer. He said Friday would be a "sad day" for the town.
"It's the end of an era. ConAgra has been a corporate citizen providing good-paying jobs and benefits to a lot of people for well over 40 years," he said. "So, it's going to be a little bit sad to see them finalize production."
Town officials and representatives of the North Carolina Department of Commerce had negotiated with ConAgra for months to convince the Omaha, Neb.-based company to keep the plant open.
ConAgra agreed to pay the town $3 million toward building a planned community center and said it would donate the 450,000-square-foot plant and the surrounding 106 acres to the town.
Troubles began for the plant following the June 9, 2009, explosion, caused by a natural gas leak. ConAgra reopened two months later but was forced to lay off workers because of its diminished production capacity.