City officials in Seneca say they are devastated after learning the City's second largest employer plans to close. Eagle Family Foods, a company that makes a variety of evaporated and condensed milk brands, will close its Seneca processing facility in June of 2018. Company executives say there has, "Been a sustained increase of competitive pressures in the milk product category."
The saying usually goes, then and wow. But Marion Stegall is thinking then and how?
"It'll hurt this town," says Stegall.
How could a place with solid importance and history in Seneca soon close? Stegall remembers going to the grand opening of the this milk processing facility in 1948. It looks a lot different now, of course.
"That's been a big deal for this community for many years, including the war years," says Seneca Mayor Mark Bennett.
Bennett is at a loss for how he will help take care of Seneca when Ohio-based Eagle Family Foods closes this milk processing facility. Fifty-six workers will lose their jobs.
"The families who work there. Their earnings, they spend their earnings in this community. The tax base that comes from that," says Bennett.
The City of Seneca, population a little more than 2,000, will lose $60,000 a month of utility payments from Eagle Foods. How does Seneca's future economy look?
"I don't know. I don't have any idea," says Stegall.
Stegall's straightforward talk seems to be right on the money.
"The paint is not even dry on this deal yet, and we're all standing around shaking our heads. We're thinking, what a loss for the community. But even bigger, what a loss for the families in this community," says Bennett.
For the time being, the best hope from Bennett and many residents is Eagle Foods changes its mind about the closure.
Eagle Foods will shift milk processing from Seneca to its other plant in El Paso, Texas.
The company's full statement reads: "Eagle Family Foods Group LLC (Eagle Foods) announced today the company will close its Seneca production facility by June 2018 as part of a consolidation of manufacturing operations for its milk products business. Eagle Foods' decision resulted from the company's comprehensive review of its supply chain and manufacturing operations and reflects a sustained increase of competitive pressures in the milk product category. The company will consolidate all milk production to its El Paso, Texas facility. "Any decision that results in the closing of a facility and the elimination of positions is extremely difficult," said Paul Wagstaff, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Foods. "We took great care to consider all alternatives, but this consolidation is necessary to ensure the long-term health and competitiveness of our milk business." The Eagle Foods facility in Seneca produces condensed and evaporated milk and employs 56 wage and salaried employees. The company will work with local organizations and officials, including the Central Equity Milk Cooperative, to make the closing of the facility as smooth as possible for the community. There are no immediate changes to operations at the Seneca plant and the company will provide additional information about the timing and sequence of the close as it becomes available. "We are deeply appreciative of the dedication and hard work of our Seneca employees and are committed to treating them fairly during this transition including providing severance packages," Wagstaff said. "We also want to thank the entire Seneca community for its support throughout the history of the facility." The company has not made any decisions regarding the final disposition of the property, but is exploring various options and will make further announcements as appropriate."
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