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Del Monte to close Sleepy Eye plant, will lay off nearly 370 workers

Updated: August 20, 2019 10:36 PM

Del Monte Foods is closing its Sleepy Eye plant, which will cost nearly 370 jobs, according to a notice the company sent to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development on Tuesday.

The company said the plant will permanently close after the current pack season, which is expected to end around Oct. 21.

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Because of the closure, 69 full-time employees and 294 seasonal employees will lose their jobs, the notice said.

The permanent layoffs will begin after pack season ends and will continue in stages until all labeling, shipping and closing activities are completed around June 2020, the notice said.

The company's website said the Sleepy Eye plant was established in 1930 and produces the largest case quantities of peas and corn in the entire company.

Two employees, who did not want to be identified, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they were notified of the layoffs on Tuesday morning.

Sleepy Eye Mayor Wayne Pelzel told KSTP the city also wasn't provided any notice and called the closure "a terrible shock."

Pelzel said he hopes another company will buy the plant out.

“It was like a bomb went off this morning with the news,” said Kurk Kramer, the city’s economic development coordinator.

City leaders spent the day talking to state lawmakers, DEED and Mankato-based Region Nine Development Commission.

“Are there some ways we can help the employees?” said Kramer. “How we can try to help people out because it's just been a big blow.”

Kramer said Del Monte is one of the city’s largest employers and most of the employees live in town.

The ripple effects of the closure will extend beyond the layoffs.

“Also the trucking companies that truck for them, and the farmers that sign contracts to raise the corn and the peas, and the school district, it just kind of goes on and on,” said Kramer.

Several people living near the plant still hadn’t heard the news by Tuesday evening.

“It’s very sad, I’m totally shocked today with this news,” said Graziela Correa da Coste.

Her next door neighbors work at the plant.

“This plant is everything,” she said.  “Where are these people from town going to find 300 jobs overnight?”

“It's very depressing, I’m really depressed.”

A release from Del Monte said the company will also close a plant in Mendota, Illinois, and sell one in Cambria, Wisconsin, along with manufacturing assets from its Crystal City, Texas facility.

In a statement, CEO Joselito D. Campos, Jr. said, "This decision has been difficult and has come after careful consideration. This restructuring is a necessary step for us to remain competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. Our asset-light strategy will lead to more efficient and lower cost operations. We are committed to doing all we can to provide the affected employees with resources and support."

A spokesperson for DEED said, “DEED’s Rapid Response Team will begin working with the company to set up informational meetings with impacted workers. Those meetings will include details about the benefits available through the state to impacted employees, including Unemployment Insurance and the state’s Dislocated Worker program.”

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