BOISE — The J. R. Simplot Company is planning to build a state-of-the-art potato processing plant in Caldwell, with site preparation anticipated to begin next May and start-up expected by spring of 2014.
The new plant will replace the company's existing potato processing plant in Caldwell with additional closures in the next 2 to 3 years of facilities at Aberdeen and Nampa, resulting in the loss of just under 800 jobs.
"The Aberdeen plant has about 300 full-time employees," said Simplot spokesman David Cuoio. "They will be able to apply for positions at the new plant, but many of them may choose not to do that because they live in the Aberdeen area and might not be interested in relocating.
"The company is committed to providing transitional support, including separation packages, onsite counseling, our-placement services, and other forms of assistance," Cuoio said.
The company began operations at the Aberdeen plant in 1973 and acquired the Nampa plant from Nestle in 2000. J. R. Simplot began dehydrating operations on the Caldwell site in 1941 and subsequently converted the facility to process frozen potatoes in the early 1950s.
"We struggled with this very difficult decision and we know the closures will have an impact on many of our employees and their families," said company president and CEO Bill Whitacre. "We will be doing what we can to ease the transition as it occurs, including providing separation packages, onsite counseling, out-placement services, and other forms of assistance. We are committed to providing transitional support for our employees, and we hope that making this announcement so far in advance of the closures will help them to adequately plan for their futures."
Most of the job losses will not occur until the closure of the three existing plants.
"The new plant will employ about 250 people, so there will not be job opportunities for all of those displaced by the closures," said Whitacre. "However, current employees will have the opportunity to apply for positions at the new facility."
"Competition in the food industry has become challenging, with profit margins shrinking and costs continuing to rise," Whitacre said. "These factors and other considerations have made it important to the future well-being of our food business that we build this new plant."