The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 13, 2014

Tony Downs Foods closing St. James plant

ST. JAMES — A St. James plant that makes bacon bits for Hormel is closing May 30, putting up to 75 people out of work.

Tony Downs Foods will attempt to find jobs for its St. James employees in other parts of the company, including its Madelia plant. The nearby Butterfield Foods Co. shares ownership with Tony Downs Foods, but there are union issues that are unique to each company to consider.

“We have an excellent group of people in St. James and we intend to keep their continued employment our priority,” President Mike Downs said in an email.

Hormel will be moving the work to its Progressive Processing plant in Dubuque, Iowa.

The St. James plant is closing because it’s cheaper for Hormel to make bacon bits in a large factory with other product lines rather than pay the overhead associated with a plant that makes only bacon bits.

Hormel’s Dubuque plant opened Jan. 25, 2010, with 90 employees and the capacity to employ 300 workers total. It was the first factory that Hormel had built in 25 years.

The St. James plant had been running for 67 years, and the company is looking for ways to operate it again.

The city of St. James, too, has a financial stake in the plant’s operation — it pays about $350,000 a year in city utilities, especially electricity, City Manager Joseph McCabe said. The city is analyzing the effect of the loss of those payments on its utility funds.

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