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Wednesday, 29 January 2014 15:10

Global food processor to close Grand Rapids energy bar plant

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A worker packs energy bars for shipment at Elan Nutrition, which was acquired by ConAgra in 2010. The company recently announced that it planned to close the Kentwood plant by next year. A worker packs energy bars for shipment at Elan Nutrition, which was acquired by ConAgra in 2010. The company recently announced that it planned to close the Kentwood plant by next year. MiBiz File Photo

Global food manufacturer ConAgra Foods Inc. plans to scale back its West Michigan footprint.

Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra (NYSE: CAG) plans to shutter its operation at 4490 44th Street SE in Kentwood and layoff 260 people, according to a statement the company provided to MiBiz.

The closure of the plant, which primarily makes nutritional energy bars, is expected to be permanent, the company said.

ConAgra plans to wind down its operations in several stages through the winter of 2015 and will notify employees when they can expect their positions to be eliminated, the statement said.

The company expects the first round of layoffs to take place March 31, according to a filing the company made with the Michigan Workforce Development Agency.

Research and development personnel will remain at the plant until winter of next year, according to the statement.

A spokesperson said ConAgra will offer a variety of options to affected employees.

“ConAgra Foods is committed to providing benefits and services that will help employees transition from the company or to other manufacturing plants within the company,” spokesperson Monique Farmer said in a statement.

ConAgra operated the local business since 2010 when it acquired Elan Nutrition from an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc., a private equity firm. In 2008, Elan received the Outstanding Growth Award from the Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan.

At the time, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and The Right Place Inc. offered ConAgra a $9 million package of tax incentives toward expansion plans it announced with the acquisition.

A company spokesperson told MiBiz ConAgra “will work with the appropriate authorities to meet our legal obligations within the terms of the (incentive) agreements.”

ConAgra reported full-year revenues of nearly $15.5 billion for its 2013 fiscal year.

While the region’s economic developers are understanding that market conditions did not allow for ConAgra to remain in the facility, they are confident that the investment made by the company will be valuable to a new tenant, said Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications for The Right Place.

“ConAgra is gone, but the good thing is we have a state-of the-art food-processing facility,” he said.

Read 2617 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 15:11
Nick Manes

Staff writer

nmanes@mibiz.com

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