Dairy Farmers of America has announced plans to close a cheese plant in Plymouth, Wis., eliminating 300 jobs.
The plant that makes Borden cheese and private-label products is expected to be closed in January because it has out-of-date technology and infrastructure. It's been operating since 1954.
"Business decisions that impact the lives of our employees are incredibly difficult," John Stephens, the company's chief operating officer of consumer brands, said in a news release. "This closure in no way is a reflection of our dedicated employees, who have done excellent work here.
"Unfortunately, despite numerous upgrades to this facility, it has become increasingly difficult for us to remain competitive in today's marketplace," Stephens continued.
The closure comes despite a $13.4 million project in 2011 to modernize the plant, which included $1.5 million in public financing aimed at keeping it in operation. The public financing included forgivable loans from the city of Plymouth, Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Local officials said they were surprised by the announcement.
Plymouth City Administrator Brian Yerges said officials understood at the time the loans were made that the plant's age was a problem in the long run, but there was hope that the 2011 improvements would keep it operating for the foreseeable future, lead to additional investments by the company and even raise the possibility of building a new plant.
"We are a little surprised that the decision was made so soon," he told the Sheboygan Press.
Monica Massey, the company's senior vice president and chief of staff, said a portion of the forgivable loans need to be repaid, and the company intends to do so.
Yerges said city officials are sorting through the terms of the financial incentive package to see what they can recoup.
Dairy Farmers of America plans to produce Borden cheese products through a third-party manufacturer, and Stephens said the company will help employees through the transition.