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Salad plant to lose jobs

October 21, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

A corporatewide consolidation will cost the jobs of about 300 employees at the Fresh Express Mid Atlantic Inc. salad packaging plant on Commerce Street in Greencastle, company officials said Friday.

The plant, which packages ready-to-eat salads and cut vegetables, opened in 1992.

It will be converted to a distribution center. About 40 of the plant's 370 workers will be retained for the distribution facility, said Joseph Werner, general manager of the local plant.

"It's a lot of jobs, but we understand their decision to disperse their manufacturing operation to plants that have more capacity," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Authority. The Authority worked closely with Fresh Express officials during the last year trying to find ways to keep the plant here, he said.

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Prepackaging fresh salads and cut vegetables is a water-intensive operation. An on-site expansion of the Fresh Express' existing plant would use 50,000 to 60,000 gallons per day - more than Greencastle's public water system can handle, Ross said.

The good news is that the company will still maintain a presence in Greencastle, Ross said.

Tom Lovelace is chief executive officer of Fresh Advantage's division of Performance Food Group, which bought Fresh Express last year. Lovelace said in a press release that the consolidation will strengthen the corporation's regional manufacturing plant system and support the rapid growth of its four divisions.

"We are telling our employees now, at this early stage, in order to begin working with them one-on-one to review all options," Lovelace said.

"Most of the positions will not be lost until next year so we will have several months to work with each person individually to help them transfer or find new employment," he said. "Our goal is to be open, honest and fair because we owe these employees a great debt of gratitude for their hard work in helping us achieve the successes we now enjoy."

Production lines and equipment from manufacturing plants in Greencastle and Chicago will be consolidated into modern plants in Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., and Salinas, Calif.

The Greencastle plant will be converted to a distribution center to serve customers in the east, spokeswoman Robin Sprague said. Another distribution center will be opened in Chicago.

"Since our successful acquisition of Fresh Express just one year ago, which merged four separate companies with unique strengths and

leadership, we have established an unparalleled retail and food service, fresh salad and cut vegetable processing and distribution system," Lovelace said in the press release.

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