ConAgra: $15M wouldn't save Ripon plant

Ripon’s loss is South Beloit, Ill.’s gain.

While Ripon is losing its primary cookie factory — ConAgra’s “west” plant that employs 300 people — another ConAgra factory to the south is gaining a significant investment to take over some of the products now made in Ripon.

Union officials, however, believe this investment should have been made in Ripon, thereby saving jobs here.

“Definitely. We think so,” said Alex Gillis of Workers Unite, which represents Local 91 in Ripon.

ConAgra officials, though, disagree, explaining it would not have been cost-effective to do so, while adding some lines now produced in Ripon simply are being discontinued.

“We made the decision to close the facility based on an assessment of the capabilities and competitiveness of our plant network and determined that making the cookies in South Beloit will put us in the best position to meet the needs of the business,” said Dan Hare, spokesman for ConAgra.

Back in May, when ConAgra announced the plant closure, Hare explained “the need for infrastructure improvements to the facility” was among the reasons Ripon wasn’t viable in ConAgra’s supply chain.

This week, Hare noted that even the $15 million being invested in South Beloit wouldn’t have been enough to bring the Ripon plant up to par.

“The investment required for the Ripon plant would be significantly higher than for the South Beloit plant and the investment in South Beloit will allow us to operate more efficiently,” he said, noting specifically one line that currently is made in Ripon will be moved to this renovated facility. “The $15 million investment in the South Beloit facility will fund the improvements necessary to make the soft bake cookies, including repurposing some of the existing facility.”

Read the full story in the July 2, 2015 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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