By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
NEW ULM — An estimated 90 jobs will be lost at the New Ulm Kraft Foods plant under a restructuring plan to take effect next year.
Company officials said the move, which will include a $25 million new-equipment/infrastructure investment in the plant, could result in the loss of the equivalent of 80 full-time hourly positions and 10 salaried positions.
“Right now we don’t know how many people will be impacted, and we won’t know for another few months,” company spokesperson Joyce Hodel said.
Kraft has been in New Ulm since 1955 and employs 555 at the local facility. Kraft and 3M, with about 600 employers, are the largest employers in New Ulm.
New Ulm Economic Development Corporation Coordinator Brian Tohal said Kraft’s goal of reducing its workforce largely through early retirements and attrition takes some of the sting out of the announcement.
He also said the restructuring is the nature of the beast.
“Kraft reacts to the market just like any business would. When business is slow, they tend to lay people off. But overall, what they’re trying to do is position the plant for future growth.”
Under the restructuring, the New Ulm plant’s Velveeta production will move to a Kraft plant in Illinois, and the New Ulm plant will begin production of bulk food-service cheese that’s being done in a Missouri plant that’s also changing over its production lines.
Hodel said the New Ulm plant is the only one of the three that will undergo job reductions in Kraft’s effort to consolidate and streamline production facilities.