Fate of Aberdeen, Idaho, Simplot potato plant still unclear

The closure could reduce Aberdeen’s population and tax base, the mayor says.

IDAHO STATE JOURNALFebruary 15, 2014 

ABERDEEN — The J.R. Simplot Co. plans to close its potato processing plant this year, but it’s not yet known exactly when the shutdown will occur, nor what the company has decided to do with the plant.

“There are no specific plans at this time for the Aberdeen plant structures,” said Simplot spokesman David Cuoio.

Simplot said in 2011 that it would close plants in Aberdeen, Nampa and Caldwell and replace them with a new plant in Caldwell.

“Competition in the food industry has become challenging, with profit margins shrinking and costs continuing to rise,” President and CEO Bill Whitacre said at that time. “These factors and other considerations have made it important to the future well-being of our food business that we build this new plant.”

Aberdeen’s plant closure is expected to eliminate 290 jobs, and 111 of those are held by people living in Aberdeen, Mayor Morgan Anderson said. Simplot has said it plans to give current employees a chance to apply for jobs at the new plant, but it expects to only have about 250 jobs available.

Anderson said the closure will not only affect local families, but it could also reduce the city’s population if people move away looking for new work. Depending on the plant’s fate, the tax base could suffer too, he said.

Anderson said he and others are working to limit the impact by drawing new businesses to Aberdeen and other communities that are close enough for current Simplot employees to commute to.

“It’s amazing when you get economic development groups (involved),” as they’re getting regular calls from interested businesses, he said.

Anderson hopes Simplot will sell, lease or donate its property so another business could locate there.

“We don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “That’s the frustrating part of the whole thing, the unknown.”

There had been talk of shutting the plant down as early as this month, but Morgan said he’s now hearing that it could be as late as May.

kevensen@journalnet.com

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