Interest in Buying Pilgrim's Arkansas Plant

ARKANSAS, US - The Arkansas Dislocated Worker's Task Force is to meet at the Pilgrim's Pride El Dorado plant with company officials on 10 March to determine what additional services will be made available to those facing layoffs and loss of contracts, including workshops, opportunity fairs and eligibility for job-training grants.
calendar icon 5 March 2009
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Future planning meetings will also be set as the plant shutdown date approaches.

The state governor Governor Mike Beebe says that a group has shown interest in the Pilgrim's Pride plant at El Dorado that the company is to close.

Governor Beebe, members of his staff and various state agencies say they are in constant contact with local leadership in El Dorado about the future of the employees and growers facing the closure of the Pilgrim's Pride plant.

"Friday's announcement was a big blow to all of Union County, and we are going to explore every opportunity to strengthen their local economy," Beebe said.

"At the same time, the State will move quickly to provide job-training and employment opportunities to the employees in El Dorado. We are also exploring any possible assistance that may be available to the affected growers who contracted with the plant."

He says that says a group of buyers has offered to purchase a Pilgrim's Pride plant in El Dorado that is slated to close in May, although the Texas-based poultry company has not responded to the offer, reports KATC.

Mr Beebe, speaking to a group of 250 workers and community members on 3 March, cautioned listeners that it could be an "uphill battle" to make the sale. But the governor said those interested in purchasing the plant, affected by a plan to cut 3,000 jobs from the chicken company, had experience in the business.

"It ain't somebody that's been running F.W. Woolworth or who doesn't know how to run a plant," Mr Beebe said.

On 4 March, Ray Atkinson, a spokesman for Pilgrim's Pride, largely dismissed the group's offer.

"To date we have not received any meaningful offers on the El Dorado plant," he said in a statement.

Governor Beebe declined to offer any specific details about the group, other than to say it had been working on the offer for about five months.

"The odds are we're not going to be able to get this done no matter how hard we're trying," he said. "But we've got to try."

When he opened the floor to questions, the gathering became heated at times.

Last week, Pilgrim's Pride Corp. announced it would shut down operations at three of its 32 chicken plants. The company said it would cut its productions by roughly 10 per cent at a savings of $110 million a year. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in December as it struggled with rising feed costs and a weakened economy. The other two plants expected to close are in Douglas, Georgia, and Farmerville, Louisiana.

In El Dorado, Pilgrim's Pride has a processing plant, a feed mill and a hatchery. More than 800 plant employees are slated to lose their jobs. Local growers who supply eggs and live birds to the company also would be affected by the closure.

The KATC report concludes that Pilgrim's Pride previously idled its plant in Clinton. It also has facilities in Batesville and De Queen.

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