MARSHALL (AP) -- Marshall's industrial base suffered another blow Monday, when the Jennie-O Turkey Store announced its subsidiary, Heartland Foods, will close at the end of February.
The closure means 162 employees will lose their jobs at the turkey processing plant. Before layoffs in February, March and July, the plant employed about 300.
In the past two years, Marshall has lost about 800 jobs at the Schott Corp., Heartland Foods and at Archer Daniels Midland, where the former Minnesota Corn Processors administrative office is being closed.
The Heartland plant was Marshall's eighth-largest employer. It has been owned by the Jennie-O Turkey Store since Oct. 3, 1997. Austin-based Hormel Foods is the parent company of Jennie-O.
The announcement came as surprise to Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes.
"I've not heard about it, Byrnes said. "(The city has) not heard directly from Jennie-O or Hormel."
The planned closure comes only weeks after company spokesman Dave Juhlke addressed rumors that the plant was closing.
He had said Heartland had cut hours at the Marshall plant but had made no announcement of a closure and had not made any layoffs since July.
Juhlke said Monday that Jennie-O was committed to keeping the plant open until it became obvious that the plant couldn't continue.
"As I have said before, our focus was to make the new product line work and keep this facility going," Juhlke said. "But there comes a point in time when you realize there are better efficiencies..."
The company is offering employees severance pay and some may be able to transfer to other positions within Jennie-O, Juhlke said.
Heartland employees weren't shocked. Rumors, layoffs, and workday reductions have prepared them for the news they officially heard at a plant meeting Monday.
Walter St. Aubin of Marshall has worked at the turkey plant since 1973. Like his fellow employees, he knew it was going to happen sooner or later. "I thought, 'What comes, comes,"' he said.
Inocencio Arrendondo of Minneota has worked at Heartland for five years. "I'm scared," Arrendondo said. "I will have to find another job."
Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tracy Veglahn said replacing an employer the size and type of Heartland will be very difficult.
Yet, Veglahn said, while Marshall has been dealt some tough losses, some of those losses have been softened through job creation. "We've had a tremendous amount of job growth within the past 10 years," Veglahn said.
The Minnesota Trade and Economic Developments rapid response team has already been dispatched to Marshall to help employees, said DTED's Gene Goddard.
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