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Odom’s to close, lay off 240

by Jessica Seaman | October 16, 2012 at 1:13 a.m.

— ConAgra Foods Inc. will close the Odom’s Tennessee Pride pork-processing plant in Little Rock by late spring 2013, said spokesman Daniel Hare.

Nebraska-based ConAgra, which bought Odom’s Tennessee Pride in May, told its approximately 240 employees in Little Rock last week that the facility will shut down, he said.

“When we acquired it we told employees, we told them, we planned to evaluate our options,” Hare said.“We made the decision to shift out of it.”

The 110,000-square-foot plant is located at 4701 Asher Ave.

When the company acquired the plant, it was reported that there were 300 employees, but Hare said the number is now about 240.

“We will provide employees with transitional support as part of the process,” he said.

Hare said the company’s decision to close the plant is “based on the company’s interest in making high-quality food.”

“It’s not part of our overall footprint,” he said. “The decision is also related to cost competitiveness.”

When the company acquired the plant in Little Rock, it also bought Odom’s Tennessee Pride’s other facilities in Dickson, Tenn., and Madison, Tenn.

These facilities will continue to operate and ConAgra will continue to “evaluate” them, Hare said.

ConAgra is not planning to do anything with the facility in Little Rock once it closes, he said. ConAgra foods had net sales totaling more than $13 billion in fiscal 2012, while employing more than 26,000 people. It makes and sells branded food products, as well as ingredient products to food service and food manufacturing customers.

Once the plant closes, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission will decide what to do with it, said Joe Holmes, spokesman for the commission.

“Anytime you lose a company and lose jobs it’s always very disappointing,” he said. “We will be getting with the city and economic developers and putting together a plan for the future on how this facility can be marketed.”

Although it is never good to lose any jobs, the number of positions that will be lost when the plant closes is not a large percentage of the work force, said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

“That magnitude of job loss is the type of thing an economy can easily handle,” she said. “We start worrying when you get lots and lots of these announcements.”

When ConAgra’s acquisition of the plant was announced, Odom’s Tennessee Pride was the second-largest U.S. producer of frozen and refrigerated breakfast sandwiches and sausage.

Several other companies have trimmed their Little Rock payrolls this year.

In August, Hawker Beechcraft and LM Wind Power announced plans to lay off employees at their Little Rock plants.

Wichita, Kan.-based aircraft manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft announced Aug. 2 in a letter to workers that 170 of them “across multiple levels and functions, hourly and non-hourly, throughout our Little Rock facilities” would be laid off.

LM Wind Power, which makes wind turbine blades at the Little Rock Port, said it would lay off more than half its staff in Little Rock and most of them will be gone by the end of October. The Denmark-based company said it would lay off 80 hourly employees, 14 salaried employees and all of the 140 temporary workers.

At the time it announced layoffs, LM Wind Power employed 300 full-time workers in addition to the temporary jobs.

In May, Little Rock-based telecommunications company Windstream Corp. said it would lay off between 375 and 400 workers in management positions nationwide. Windstream spokesman David Avery said Monday that the company ultimately eliminated 31 management positions in Arkansas, including25 in Pulaski County, as part the cuts.

The nationwide cuts will generate about $30 million to $40 million in savings, he said. Windstream employs 14,500, with about 1,300 in Arkansas and about 975 in Pulaski County. The reductions were the result of redundancies created by the acquisition of other companies.

Information for this article was contributed by Jack Weatherly of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Front Section, Pages 1 on 10/16/2012

Print Headline: Odom’s to close, lay off 240

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