Yeast plant in city may shut, idle 120


September 27, 2005|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,Sun reporter

The Lesaffre Yeast Corp. plant in Baltimore, which employs about 120, is to close later this year, the union representing the plant's workers said yesterday.

The plant, which manufactures Red Star Yeast, is tentatively set to close in late November, with the company agreeing to pay workers through the end of the year, said Ken Kelm, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 311, the union representing the workers at the factory in Fort Holabird Industrial Park.

Laura Collins, manager of human resources at Lesaffre's North American headquarters in Milwaukee, declined to comment on any specifics of the closing.

"We have advised our employees of a tentative decision to close the plant and we are currently in discussions with the union regarding this decision and its effects on the employees," she said.

But Kelm of the Teamsters said company officials told him last week that the plant was closing. Only the November date was tentative, he said.

Both the city and state have been working with Lesaffre to keep the company in Maryland, said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm. The company had not notified the BDC of the closing as of yesterday afternoon.

Kelm said Lesaffre, a French company, has built a new plant on the same Iowa property as an Archer Daniels Midland Co. corn syrup plant. He said company officials told him that operating a plant there would be less expensive than in Baltimore.

While yeast is typically made from beet molasses, Lesaffre manufactures it from corn syrup in Baltimore. Corn syrup creates more waste than beet molasses, and dumping it can be expensive, Kelm said.

Brodie said the city's Board of Estimates had reduced Lesaffre's wastewater industrial charge by $1.5 million in 2002, $700,000 in 2003, and more than $811,000 in 2004. In addition, Brodie said that about 18 months ago the city and state put "what we thought was a very generous incentive package in front of the Lesaffre people, which was rejected."

That package included industrial revenue bonds, engineering and environmental services at no cost to the company and state income tax credits of up to $5.5 million. The offer required that Lesaffre commit to staying in Baltimore for another five years, Brodie said.

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