Carriage House/Petri’s parent company purchase completed

It’s a done deal – ConAgra Foods Inc. now owns Ralcorp Holdings Inc., the parent company of the Carriage House facilities in Dunkirk and Fredonia as well as Petri’s in Silver Creek. The deal was made official Jan. 29 when Ralcorp stockholders approved the acquisition for $90 in cash per share.

ConAgra will now have some 36,000 employees and $18 billion in annual sales, according to a company release. The transaction also positions ConAgra Foods as the largest private brand packaged food business in North America, with approximately $4.5 billion in combined annual private brand sales.

How that all plays out in the future of the Fredonia facility remains to be seen. The Dunkirk plant is already scheduled to be reduced to a skeleton crew. Employees were notified Jan. 3 under the state’s Worker’s Adjustment and Retraining Notification that the Dunkirk plant was being closed due to economic reasons. The WARN notice was updated Jan. 7 to say the closing was due to the sale of the company.

The notification listed a closing date of April 5 with all layoffs coming within 14 days with some 133 employees affected. Many of the Carriage House employees are represented by Chapter 26, National Conference Firemen & Oilers District of Local 32 BJ/SEIU.

A bigger concern for those local Carriage House employees who will still have jobs may be the expansion plans for a Carriage House facility in Buckner, Ky.; the project has grown.

According to a story in the Louisville Business First, the 200,000 square foot expansion for the Carriage House facility in Buckner is turning out to be something much larger. The story reports the Buckner Carriage House broke ground on a 558,600 square foot warehouse and distribution center in the fourth quarter of 2012.

In the story, Deanna Epperly Karem, executive director of the Oldham County Chamber & Economic Development Agency, said Carriage House has completed about 80 percent of the exterior of a 90,000 square-foot peanut butter production facility on the company’s Buckner property.

In its filing with the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, the company said its original investment plans for the Buckner project would consist of $64 million in new equipment, $13.7 million in new construction and building improvements and $19.1 million in other startup costs. In its filing with KEDFA the company said its proposed 225 proposed would have an average hourly wage of $22.97.

Neighbors of the expansion met recently with Oldham County officials to air more concerns, something they have done previously. According to one local in a televised report, they don’t mind the expansion, but they don’t want to hear, see or smell it and want an enforceable deal in writing to address their concerns.

Tom Dickerson is the president of the SEIU local and was asked to comment on what was next.

“They said that they would be here Feb. 14 to talk to the employees and anything that was done prior to them taking over will be done, like the closing of the Talcott Street plant,” he replied. “So everything is going to stay in place. I told the people to have their questions ready.”

Dickerson added he is hopeful a meeting between local and state officials and the company can be arranged.

A call to the Fredonia Carriage House was referred to a Ralcorp official. A call to that number was not returned.

Carriage House was not the only local company to feel the hit as Petri’s in Silver Creek got a knockout blow as its more than 250 employees received notice Jan. 3 that the plant will be closing entirely. The WARN notice for Petri’s states layoffs will begin April 4 or within 14 days of that date and will continue until the plant closing is completed. The sale of the company was listed as the reason for the closing. Petri’s employees are not represented by a union.

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