Food-processing plant to open at Chestertown Former facility of Campbell Soup will provide 220 jobs

August 22, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Less than a year after Campbell Soup Co. shuttered a poultry processing plant two miles outside of Chestertown, costing 220 employees their jobs, a new company plans to reopen the plant and employ as many people within one year, state officials said yesterday.

Chestertown Foods, a company formed by four executives of two New Jersey-based food companies, will spend $4.9 million to acquire and refurbish the plant.

That includes a $1.5 million low-interest loan from the state's community development block grant program, which is financed by the federal government, state officials said.

In a statement, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the transaction was "an excellent example of the kind of partnership that is helping to move Maryland's economy into the 21st century."

The company plans to employ 60 people to restart operations by early fall. By the end of its first year of operation, the company expects to employ 220 people.

"They would be the second-largest employer in Kent County," said David Taylor, the county's economic development director.

Dixon Valve and Co., the county's largest employer, has more than 300 workers. Chestertown has about 4,000 residents and Kent County about 18,000.

Glendening said the project would create "family-supporting jobs." State officials said the new jobs would pay $6.50 an hour. That's $2.10 less than the average Campbell Soup Co. wage of $8.60.

Taylor said about 70 percent of the Campbell's employees are available to work. Company officials could not be reached to comment on the hiring process.

The closing of the plant, announced in April 1995 and effective last September, marked Campbell's departure from Maryland. The company once had other plants in Salisbury, Crisfield and Pocomoke City.

The decision was made to improve the efficiency of the company's manufacturing operations. The closing shook the town because the loss of more than 200 jobs followed the closing of two other large manufacturing plants.

Taylor said the deal started to come together a year ago, when county officials met with the new group about buying the plant.

"When it looked like they might do it, the county commissioners went to Jim Brady [the state's economic development director] and lobbied for assistance," he said. "He promised all the help the state could give."

The partners in the new company are Louis J. Rothman and Mark I. Fisher, majority owners of Norma, N.J.-based B&B Poultry Inc., which will supply chickens to Chestertown Foods; and William W. Schroeder and Robert V. Archibald, owners of Rosenhayn, N.J.-based Sunnyside Foods Inc., a salad company that will buy chicken from Chestertown Foods for its salads.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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