Leaders look to replace ConAgra in Dunkirk, Fredonia

DUNKIRK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Senator Charles Schumer says no time will be wasted in finding a new company to take over two ConAgra facilities being closed in Chautauqua County.

ConAgra announced in March that they would be closing their facilities in Dunkirk and Fredonia by early next year, putting more than 400 people out of work. The company had purchased the Carriage House plants from Ralcorp in November 2012.

Union officials say since then, ConAgra has cut back production at the former Red Wing plant in Dunkirk and closed the Petri baked goods facility Silver Creek, and they could see the writing on the wall.

The closure of the facilities, which make private label products, including peanut butter, jellies and salad dressings, will also hurt local grape growers, according to Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan.

“Looking at grape processing infrastructure, which was one of the first indications we had that Carriage House was terminating their grape processing business, when all of a sudden we are hit with, ‘No, we’re closing the entire plants,’” Horrigan said.

A company spokesman says the closings, scheduled to start this summer, will allow ConAgra to operate more efficiently. Company officials told employees that as each unit is closed down individually, the equipment will be shipped out to other ConAgra plants, including new facilities in Kentucky.

Though pleas from the mayors of Dunkirk and Fredonia, county officials, and Senator Schumer, as well as Congressman Tom Reed, fell on deaf ears, there appears to be a small silver lining.

“With the announcement that there will be no sale restrictions on these facilities, we can now move immediately to identifying a new company to come on board. Conversations have already begun, and I will be working tirelessly with local leaders to have a new company operating and hiring workers in these facilities as soon as possible,” Sen. Schumer said.

And Congressman Reed says ConAgra will give each of their employees a fair severance package.

“First and foremost, we made caring for employees and their families our immediate priority and are extremely pleased our efforts paid off in favor of the employees. The work continues now to find a buyer and restore those jobs in the Chautauqua County community as soon as possible,” he stated.

Layoffs at the plants will begin in October, leading up to full closure of both by May 2015.

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