Kentwood ConAgra Foods to close in 2015

The ConAgra Foods facility in Kentwood. (Jan. 28, 2014)
The ConAgra Foods facility in Kentwood. (Jan. 28, 2014)

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The ConAgra Foods facility in Kentwood will shut down by early 2015, costing workers their jobs.

The closure of the facility on 44th Street SE near Broadmoor Avenue means that about 260 employees will lose their jobs, according to a statement from ConAgra.

The company says production will halt in May and the plant will continue only as a research and development facility until it closes permanently in February 2015. Layoffs will take place over the course of five 14-day periods starting on March 31.

ConAgra was given an incentive from the City of Kentwood and the state to come to West Michigan. According to the city, the food maker did not fulfill that contract.

“We know they fell short of their commitment, their promise. And it is our 100% expectation we will be made whole from that agreement and their lack of fulfilling their agreement,” said Kentwood mayor Stephen Kepley.

Kepley said now the city has to figure out how much the company owes it for not fulfilling the agreement.

“We know they bought the company for about $72 million. We know that they have invested about $40 million. What does that represent in tax credit and tax abetment? We will probably have a better answer tomorrow once we get through that type of detail,” he said Tuesday.

Kepley said he was told by company officials that the plant in Kentwood was only operating at 30%.

While Kepley says this is unfortunate news for the city and the 260 employees that will eventually lose their jobs, he believes its not a sign of things to come.

“We have a demand for facilities just like this and my expectation is that facility will be filled and those employees will find new opportunities here in Kentwood and in West Michigan,” he said.

ConAgra says employees have been informed of the closure.

“ConAgra Foods is committed to providing benefits and services that will help employees transition from the company or to other manufacturing plants within the company,” the statement from ConAgra reads in part.

The ConAgra plant in Kentwood manufactures nutritional bars. ConAgra purchased Elan Nutrition, which at that time owned the Kentwood plant, in 2010. The Elan Nutrition employees were retained.

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