Yeast company to close city plant, idle 120


Lesaffre Yeast Corp. confirmed yesterday that it will close its Red Star Yeast plant in Baltimore by the end of the year, affecting 120 workers.

City and state economic developers had offered incentives to keep the plant open in Holabird Industrial Park, but Lesaffre officials said operating that facility and another in Milwaukee was too expensive.

It's not clear if any of the Baltimore or Milwaukee employees, who total 200, will be offered jobs elsewhere. A local union representative who previously had said he'd been told of the closings could not be reached for comment.

"The Milwaukee and Baltimore plants have played a major role in the supply of baker's yeast to the North American market for many years," John Riesch, president and chief executive of Lesaffre and Red Star Yeast, said in a statement. "The rapidly changing complex of costs in North America render these plants no longer cost-competitive."

The Baltimore plant manufactures yeast from corn syrup, rather than the more common beet molasses, creating more waste that can be expensive to dump.

The company has entered a joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland Co. to open a yeast plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that will replace the two closing plants. Another Red Star plant in Dothan, Ala., will remain open.

Andrew B. Frank, executive vice president of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's development arm, said the announcement was disappointing. He said there had been offers to help offset costs, but the company refused them.

"It's disappointing, but it does present opportunities for that site," Frank said. "There will be no shortage of takers. ... There is a dearth of ready industrial sites with great access."

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