One city’s tragedy, another city’s opportunity

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2001

The city of Carroll, Iowa knows firsthand the sting of a plant closing and the accompanying loss of jobs.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

The city of Carroll, Iowa knows firsthand the sting of a plant closing and the accompanying loss of jobs.

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Late last month, the Farmland pork processing plant in Carroll ceased operation after 30 years of canning and packaging ham products. Farmland officials cited the need to downsize and consolidate, and planned to shift at least one processing line to Albert Lea.

A handful of workers were headed up to Albert Lea after taking transfers. The day they were to begin work was the day after a fire engulfed much of the Albert Lea plant.

&uot;In many ways, Albert Lea was going to benefit from our closing, Now, it’s the reverse,&uot; said Carroll city councilor Don Nepple.

Carroll leaders are wondering if the town can somehow benefit from the fire at the Albert Lea Farmland plant two weeks ago. Nepple said he has nothing but sympathy for Albert Lea, but has his own city to think about.

&uot;We definitely feel for you guys up there. We know how it feels,&uot; he said.

Now, while Farmland works on demolishing the damaged plant in Albert Lea, Carroll city leaders are offering their assistance in luring the company back to town.

Carroll Mayor Ed Smith is willing to work with Farmland officials if the Carroll plant is needed to help make up for lost production in Albert Lea.

&uot;That was a tragedy in Albert Lea,&uot; Smith said during a recent city council meeting. &uot;But maybe there is an opportunity for Carroll.&uot;

Nepple said the city is working on a new water-treatment plant, and needs to know the plans of their biggest water customer. If at all possible, he said, the city will try to persuade Farmland to return.

&uot;Maybe there’s still a chance because six months ago the Farmland people were talking about expanding down here,&uot; Nepple said. &uot;Now the plant is closed and we’re wondering what happened.&uot;

In the meantime, Nepple said Carroll is also working to retain the unemployed Farmland workers and their families.

&uot;I think we can hang on to most of them – we’ve got a lot of jobs – but they may not be the wages these workers were used to,&uot; he said. &uot;All the more reason to bring them back.&uot;

Though the company has made no indication of restarting work at the Carroll plant, Farmland President George Richter did acknowledge that losing the Albert Lea plant was a blow to the company’s production.

&uot;We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs however we can. We’ve been able to shift production to other facilities,&uot; Richter said. &uot;We’ve even received calls from some of our toughest competitors will offers of help.&uot;

Nepple said Farmland seems to be moving ahead with closing the plant, and chances of a return to Carroll appear slim.

&uot;We just want Farmland to know our door is open. Even if it’s just a temporary reopening, we’re willing to talk – to help work something out,&uot; he said.