A village in southern Alberta is about to lose its largest employer as dairy processor Saputo prepares to close four processing plants in North America.
“The term I would use to describe it is ‘shocked,’” said Kurtis Pratt, chief administrative officer of the Village of Glenwood, one of two communities in Alberta affected by the closures. “People are concerned about what (the closure) will mean. It’s probably too early to tell exactly the impact that it will have.”
But it will be big. The Saputo plant, which produces powdered milk, employs about 25 people in the town of 287. And its taxes and utility payments account for almost half of Glenwood’s municipal operating revenue.
“We are going to have to be re-evaluating different services and prioritizing and making decisions accordingly, whether it’s to cut services or raise taxes or some combination to make up for that shortfall,” said Pratt.
Saputo refused a request for comment, but in a late-March press release said the closure of Glenwood plant, another in Wetaskiwin, and two U.S. facilities was “aimed at improving its operational efficiency.” Closing the four plants will eliminate 180 jobs in total and save the company $4.8 million annually.
From the Manitoba Co-operator website: Saputo to shut two Alta. powdered milk plants
“Over the recent years, Saputo has maintained efforts to pursue additional efficiencies and decrease costs while strengthening its market presence,” the Montreal-headquartered company stated.
The exact dates of the plant closures are unknown, with the first scheduled for May 2014 and the last planned for December 2015. Laid-off employees will be given severance and outplacement support, with some offered the opportunity to transfer to other Saputo locations.
Glenwood’s nearest city is an hour and a half away in Lethbridge, so attracting new business to the town to replace Saputo’s loss will be a priority, said Pratt.
“Glenwood is not really close to a major service centre, so we don’t really have the benefit of the spin-off growth … that a lot of other smaller communities do,” he said.
“(The closure) will hit everybody in some way.”