Purina shutting down Innisfail operations
Move by Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada will result in the loss of 44 jobs in Innisfail
Tuesday, Oct 27, 2015 06:00 am
With the Alberta government handing down its long-awaited budget today in a time of growing economic uncertainty, many Innisfailians are already struggling to find hope after last week’s shock that Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada is shutting down its local production operations.
The shutdown, which will be completed by the end of this coming January, will leave 44 employees without jobs, along with shaky optimism about finding another in Innisfail, which is increasingly feeling the pinch from the current recession.
“It will definitely shake people’s confidence and people are definitely going to be worried. It is definitely not good,” said Mark Jones, president of the Innisfail & District Chamber of Commerce. “That is 44 people out of work, and really you have an average family of four, and that is a 44 times four people effect, so it will have a great effect throughout the whole community.”
Purina’s announcement of the shutdown came last week (Oct. 21) following meetings with employees earlier this month at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre. The shutdown will end almost 40 years of pet food production in town. Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada has owned the local plant since 1988. The company will turn the operation into a distribution centre with 23 employees retained.
Dean McNeill, manager of public relations and corporate communications at the company’s Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., said the move was made to optimize costs and efficiencies to keep the business competitive in the pet food industry.
“This was a difficult decision that was reached after much consideration and a comprehensive assessment of Nestlé Purina’s entire North American Purina production and supply network. The change overall is the most efficient way to leverage the full scale and capabilities of our factories in the U.S. and Canada,” said McNeill, adding the layoffs were not a response to the sluggish Alberta economy. “The manufacturing of pet food will be ceasing. For our western region it will operate as a distribution centre. The product will flow through from here in Ontario as well as from the U.S.
“In no way does it reflect on the performance of the employees affected,” he added in an earlier written statement. “We know this will be a challenging time for the affected employees and we are committed to making this transition as smooth as possible. We are also working to make this transition seamless for our valued consumers and retail customers.”
But in the meantime, Mayor Brian Spiller said the town was “disappointed” with the news, noting the town’s pet food manufacturing plant had become an institution in the community over the past four decades.
“Even when I was in high school they were making dog food there in the late ’70s. It has been around a long time,” said Spiller, adding the closure will have a significant impact on the town. “There are 44 families without the main wage earner and it will have a big effect on our local economy. Maybe some of those families don’t live in Innisfail proper, but we care for all 44 families nevertheless.
“There are some people who have worked there 30-some years and maybe they are ready for retirement, but maybe they are not,” he added.
However, Spiller said there is still hope for the soon to be unemployed Purina workers, as well as those who have recently lost their jobs from the slumping oil and gas industry.
“We have a very diversified economy. We are not like Fort McMurray or up north where it is all logging,” he said, noting the town still has primary employers like Johns Manville, Bilton Welding and Manufacturing Ltd. and the nearby Bowden Institution. “I am sure those people will find other high paying skilled jobs in Central Alberta and hopefully they can remain a resident of Innisfail at the same time.”