ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - ConAgra leaders said their Sylvester plant will close Summer 2020.
“We made the decision based on a thorough analysis of our overall business strategy and our operating network," ConAgra officials said in a statement Thursday. "This is not due to the performance of our employees and we deeply appreciate their commitment. We will continue to having open communication with employees and provide as much information as we can, when we can.”
Officials told WALB on Wednesday that the closing would impact 175 positions and employees were notified about the decision a month ago.
Sylvester leaders said the plant has been in Sylvester for over 30 years and that they were blindsided about ConAgra’s decision to close the Peter Pan peanut butter plant.
“That’s the district I represent and I got blindsided on that one," Larry Johnson, Sylvester mayor pro tem, said. "I got the official report from WALB once they ran it. There were rumors before but I got the official report once WALB ran it. We probably would have sat down with ConAgra to see what we can do to help to keep those employees in our town. Keep them working and keep that further revenue in Worth County.”
WALB asked Johnson if action was taken once rumors of the closing circulated.
“No, we didn’t want to interfere with ConAgra business.," Johnson said. “We feel like everything was a secret, so no we didn’t.”
Johnson added: "We hate that it happened to them (ConAgra employees) but we will do everything in our power to bring more industry into Sylvester and be out scouting for industry to bring here to Sylvester to help those employees and that’s gonna be a big hit to those employees and the city.”
The Worth County Economic Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce released a statement to WALB on Thursday:
“The Worth County Economic Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce are disappointed to hear of the decision made by the ConAgra Corporate Headquarters to close the plant in Sylvester. We are here to help make the transition for ConAgra and its employees as smooth as possible.”
Sylvester residents said they’re sad to hear ConAgra’s Peter Pan Peanut Butter plant is closing.
“I think it’s an awful thing, especially right now during Christmas and I think that it’s not fair to those people who have been working there for so many years,” Lisa Senkbeil, a Sylvester resident, said.
“There’s two things that I think are bad about this,” Luke Cooper, another Sylvester resident, said. "No.1 is the loss of pay and the second thing is the mental impact that it has on the employee. We are the peanut capital of the world here in Sylvester Georgia.”
Lisa Gibbs is a Tifton resident that visits Sylvester.
“We only eat Peter Pan (peanut butter) and I’ve known in the 25 years that I’ve lived in the area a lot of good people who did their careers with ConAgra,” Gibbs said. "So, I’m sad.”