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Hillshire Farms Closing Big Blow to Florence Economy

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Friday, April 4 Hillshire Brands Co. announced that it will close its Florence plant, which employs 1,100 people, on December 30, 2014. Hillshire intends to move this production to other locations within the company’s operations network.

Congressman Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville released a written statement following Hillshire’s announcement.  Congressman Brooks said, “I’m saddened to hear of Hillshire’s decision to close its Florence plant at the end of this year. This is a tragic loss for the hardworking men and women based at this plant and for the surrounding communities that will be impacted as a result. My thoughts are with the workers and their families, especially during these tough economic times.”

The Hillshire Brands Company announced in a statement that it will discontinue all production at its Florence, Ala., facility, located at 700 S. Wood Ave., by Dec. 30, 2014.  This decision will impact approximately 1,100 employees.

The chief supply chain officer for the Hillshire Brands Company, Tom Hayes said, “Closing our Florence facility was a very difficult decision to make. For many years, these employees dedicated themselves to running a quality operation, which they have done exceptionally well.  Unfortunately, after looking at our business, we determined that this facility will not allow us to meet our efficiency or long-term profitability expectations.”

The company said in a statement that, “After a comprehensive business evaluation, The Hillshire Brands Company determined that production from this facility will be sourced from other locations within the Hillshire Brands operations network.  Presently, the Florence plant houses breakfast sandwich and breakfast sausage cooking operations.”

The Hillshire Brands Company has promised to provide severance and outplacement assistance to employees consistent with its company policies.  The company will also coordinate efforts with state and local training and employment agencies to help facilitate and ease the transition for affected employees.

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The Hillshire Brands Company (NYSE: HSH) is a leader in branded foods.  The company generated approximately $4 billion in annual sales in fiscal 2013, has more than 9,000 employees, and is based in Chicago.  Hillshire Brands’ portfolio includes iconic brands such as Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm, State Fair, Sara Lee frozen bakery and Chef Pierre pies, Aidells, Gallo Salame and Golden Island premium jerky.

The news is another blow to the area which is already being impacted by the decision by International Paper to close its facility in Courtland.  The two plants are ~28 miles apart and both closings impact similar communities.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) told WAFF channel 48 that the state has rapid response teams ready to help assist the employees, but he said they’ll do whatever they can to try to get the plant to stay.

Governor Bentley said, “We do know that plants age out.  We will be working. In fact, I’ve already talked with the mayor this morning. We’ve discussed how we are going to approach this. I’m going to try, and he is going to try to get in touch with the CEO to see if there’s anything that we can do.”

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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