Queen Anne's hot dog plant is being closed by ConAgra

Town's biggest employer with 100 jobs, all going

January 07, 2004|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

ConAgra Foods Inc. is shutting down a Queen Anne's County hot dog plant with 100 jobs, the largest employer in a small town and the latest in a string of factory closures on the Eastern Shore.

The company, based in Omaha, Neb., said yesterday that it is moving the manufacturing and packaging work being done just outside Queenstown to a facility in Quincy, Mich. Workers were notified Monday.

ConAgra plans to expand the Michigan facility.

Julie DeYoung, a ConAgra spokeswoman, said the company plans to meet with the United Food and Commercial Workers to discuss the potential for transfers.

The 37-year-old Queenstown plant will close in the third quarter this year, DeYoung said.

"This was not due to a decline in production," she said. "This is in no way a reflection on the skills or capabilities of the Queenstown employees, strictly a business decision to allow us to be more efficient in the marketplace."

The facility is ConAgra's only plant in Maryland, and community officials said it is the largest employer in the Queenstown area. But it largely drew workers from other communities. Many in Queenstown, population 620, commute elsewhere to white-collar jobs.

"We are very much a bedroom community," said John W. Foster, a town commissioner.

Winfield H. Miller, the commission president, expects to see a ripple effect on other operations in town that did business with ConAgra or its employees.

"A hundred people losing their jobs is not a good thing ever," he said.

Suzi Eakle, business development manager for Queen Anne's County, said economic development officials will hold a job fair at the plant for employees and plan to market the facility to other food processors.

"It'd be great if we could find someone who could come in and take over operations with the existing work force," she said.

It has been a difficult period for Eastern Shore manufacturing.

Last year, Black & Decker Corp. closed its 1,300-employee facility in Easton, and Tyson Foods Inc. shuttered its 650-worker poultry complex in Berlin.

The hot dogs produced by ConAgra at the Queenstown plant are sold under the brands of Armour, Eckrich, Butterball and Decker.

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