Major local employer’s plant for sale

A major local employer's announcement has some people worried. 

ConAgra Foods announced Tuesday it's selling its private label brands. This means the packaging food company will be selling certain plants, including one in Caldwell County.

ConAgra Foods CEO Sean Connolly said in a release, "It has become clear that the time and energy the company is devoting to the private brands turnaround represents a sub-optimal use of our resources."

ConAgra Foods Communications Director Daniel Hare said their intent is to divest the broader Private Brands business, not just the Princeton plant.

"At this point, our intention is to divest nearly all of what’s now organized as the Private Brands business. The cookie and cracker plant in Princeton will likely be included in the divesture but right now it is business as usual for our employees. We will continue to keep employees informed as decisions are made," Hare said.

Caldwell County Economic Development Director Randy Major, who is also Lake Barkley Partnership executive director, said ConAgra Foods employs more than 500 people in Caldwell County.

“If a new owner comes in there would be no reason why they wouldn't want to keep this mature workforce that's been here 16 or 17 years and knows how to put the product out,” Major said.

The plant produces products such as cookies and graham crackers.

Major said he contacted members from the Kentucky Cabinet For Economic Development as soon as he heard the news.

“To ask them for help in any way they can, to help us to be engaged in whatever process ConAgra comes up with,” Major said.

Princeton native Clara Hawkins said she would hate for production to leave Princeton.

“I think it's a pretty big deal because we need all the businesses we can get here, and Princeton has grown since they came," Hawkins said. "And we take care of them at the hospital where I work,."

Hawkins said her two sons and daughter-in-law worked at ConAgra.

“I mean, they're an important part of our community," Hawkins said 

"Plus they have good cookies,” she added with a laugh.

Major said ConAgra used to be Bremner Food Group Inc. about 18 years ago.

“Over that period of time they were bought by Ralcorp., a St. Louis group I believe, and that Ralcorp was purchased by ConAgra. So, it's just been change of ownership. Hasn't had any impact in the operations at all. That's why we are optimistic it could still go the same way again,” Major said.

Major said he reached out to ConAgra about plan specifics, but hasn't heard back. He said he's optimistic because the county's judge executive and Princeton's mayor have shown a willingness to come up with local incentives for new companies coming in.

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