Purchaser sought for bacon plant Salisbury facility to close next month

March 04, 1997|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

David Ryan, the economic development director for Salisbury and Wicomico County, expressed optimism yesterday that his office will find a new company to take over Purity Farms' bacon-processing plant in Salisbury that is scheduled to close the middle of next month.

"We have had five prospects look at the plant in less than a week's time," Ryan said. "Three have expressed definite interest. He did not identify the companies.

Purity Farms announced Feb. 14 that it would close the Salisbury plant as part of a corporate restructuring.

The decision would result in the layoffs of 98 workers.

"That's a major employer in this area," Ryan said. "Purity is probably among the top 25 employers in the county."

The company said the Salisbury bacon-processing operations will be consolidated at its more modern operation in Denison, Iowa. Products made at the Eastern Shore plant are used as pizza topping and on hamburgers sold by fast food restaurants.

Purity said the precooked bacon market has become very cost-competitive and it was necessary to consolidate plants to reduce operating costs.

The practice has been for Purity to slaughter hogs in Denison and ship the meat to Salisbury for processing. "Now they are moving the processing plant closer to their supply of pigs," said Ryan.

Ryan said there is a shortage of freezer plants along the East Coast and the Salisbury facility's 5,500-square-foot freezer capacity should appeal to food processors involved with poultry, beef, seafood or frozen vegetables.

As recently as three months ago, Purity had about 150 workers, according to Ryan.

Chuck Porcari, spokesman for Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, said the state awarded Purity a $14,818 grant in 1994 to train and upgrade the skills of its Salisbury workers. He said the company is not obligated to repay the state for the grant.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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