Tyson closing plant in Jefferson, 400 workers affected - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: City officials in Jefferson stunned by Tyson Foods decision to close plant

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JEFFERSON (WKOW) – The Tyson Foods plant in Jefferson will be shutting down next year.

Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag said the company informed him on Thursday afternoon that it would begin closing the facility in the spring or summer, with its roughly 400 workers all expected to be laid off by October 2016.

“This was the first inkling we had that the company was considering making a change at this facility,” Freitag said. “We were surprised.”

“We examined many options before we turned down this road,” said Donnie King, Tyson Foods President of North American Operations, in a written statement.

“After long and careful consideration, we've determined we can better serve our customers by shifting production and equipment to more modern and efficient locations,” King said.

Freitag said the plant in Jefferson has been in operation for roughly 100 years – though it hasn't always been a Tyson Foods facility.

Freitag said the facility brought many families to Jefferson through the years. He said workers at the plant often bought homes in Jefferson and spent money in the community.

One of those workers was Gregory Peters, who moved his family to Jefferson in 1986 to take a job in the Tyson Foods facility's warehouse.

Peters said he and other workers were informed Thursday afternoon that the plant was closing.

“They brought everyone, first and second shift, all together in the warehouse at 2 p.m.,” Peters said. “They told us all at once.”

“There had been rumors it would happen for years. But I think for some people, it still caught them off guard,” he said.

In a statement, Tyson said it's encouraging affected workers to apply for other jobs within the company.

Peters said he doesn't know if he'll do that.

“I'm still kind of mulling things over,” he said.

Freitag said the city would work closely with the state's Department of Workforce Development to assist workers laid off due to the Tyson Foods closure.

Freitag also said he's hopeful the facility's location, in downtown Jefferson near the intersection of the Crawfish River and Rock River, would attract another business sooner rather than later.  

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JEFFERSON (WKOW) -- Tyson Foods announced Thursday it is closing two plants, including the pepperoni plant in Jefferson that employs around 400 people.

Tyson says it is part of an effort to improve the company's overall performance of its prepared foods business. Tyson plans to use available production capacity at some of its other prepared foods facilities. 

“We examined many options before we turned down this road,” said Donnie King, president of North American operations for Tyson Foods. “This affects the lives of our team members and their families, making it a very difficult decision. But after long and careful consideration, we’ve determined we can better serve our customers by shifting production and equipment to more modern and efficient locations.” 

Operations at the Jefferson plant are expected to stop in the second half of the company’s fiscal year 2016, which ends October 1, 2016. The other plant the company is closing is in Chicago.

Tyson says factors included changing product needs, the age of both facilities and prohibitive cost of renovations

The Jefferson facility produces sliced pepperoni and ham for pizza toppings, as well as sliced pepperoni and salami for deli and foodservice applications. It was part of Tyson Foods’ acquisition of IBP, inc., in 2001.

The building was founded in 1875 by the Stoppenbach Family, as a beef, pork and lamb processing facility. It was sold in 1934 to the Bauch and Tensfeldt families. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the plant was converted to further processing, concentrating on pepperoni for the pizza industry. The plant was sold to Doskocil Foods in 1985, which later became Foodbrands America and was acquired by IBP, inc. in 1997.

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