Campbell’s town hall was packed Monday night, with around a hundred crowding in the small room to voice their concerns about the closing Kraft-Heinz Plant.
The meeting was scheduled after news broke that a buyer needed to be found for the Campbell Kraft-Heinz plant within the next 24-months, or it’s nearly 400 workers would be without jobs.
Executive Director of Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, James Johnson, said he understands and expected the frustration associated with the area’s reaction to the plant announcement.
“These people that are going to lose their jobs are hard-working individuals,” said Johnson. “They are our neighbors, you know, they all have families, they have mortgages, and they spend money in this community.”
Joseph Simmons is a former materials manager who worked at the Kraft Plant for 30 years before retiring recently.
While many attention has been on the plant workers who could lose their jobs, Simmons said the reliance that local dairy farmers have on the plant is huge. He said the impact the closing could have on the local dairy industry, especially with the current milk surplus throughout New York State, is something officials must consider.
Simmons suggested local farmers could come together and even consider using the site for manufacturing and distribution on a local scale, to cut back on the long-distance shipping costs.
“Maybe it’s time for the farmers the cooperatives or the individual farmers to step in and say what can we do? They’re losing money right now they’re going to lose more money these farmers, with a plant like this going out of business,” said Simmons.
Alisha Morse is a dairy farmer who said she attended the town meeting because she is concerned about the future of her job.
“There’s a lot of local farms that ship their milk right to that plant so if people in this community work on that farm they’re losing their jobs too.”
Johnson said steps are in place to move forward with the area’s economy, starting with a site selection consultant who has a successful track record with food processing facilities.
“We’re working with the state to engage a site selection consultant who has worked with the state before on assessing the closure of food processing facilities,” said Johnson.