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A victory for local economic development

September 04, 2013

Farmers have always been under the thumb of the dreaded “middle man,” the processors who buy farm products at low prices and sell to supermarkets (and eventually consumers) at considerable markup.

So we are pleased on two fronts to see that the former Good Humor-Breyers ice cream plant in Hagerstown, which was operated by Unilever Corp., will be operating again.

Valley Pride LLC and Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative will, according to vice president Randy Inman, “Fulfill (a) lifelong dream of ours, to own our own processing facilities.”

It also fulfills a dream of Hagerstown’s, to find a new use for a plant that closed a year ago — a long fall from the days when it employed more than 400 people.

We are appreciative of the work City Hall did to market the building, prior to its purchase by a California real-estate investment company.

We were equally happy to see representatives of the city, county and economic development commission on hand for the announcement, a symbol of much-needed teamwork in the community.

The addition of a new employer with the potential to add a large number of jobs is a victory for local economic development efforts.

The co-op will hire 35 employees to begin with, but hopes to hire as many as 200 in the manufacture of milk, ice cream, butter and related dairy products. Although it will use the milk from its member farms in Virginia to start, there is the possibility that some local farmers might one day be able to use the Hagerstown plant as well.

The closure of the Unilever plant was a tremendous blow to local residents, many of whom had built their lives around what had previously been stable and well-paying employment.

We hope this announcement is the beginning of a new era of success, one that will benefit farmers, the customers they serve, and the men and women who make their products.

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