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Del Monte Foods plans to close southern Minn. plant, affecting more than 360 workers

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Del Monte Foods' canned sweet peas.
Del Monte Foods' canned sweet peas. The company said it plans to close its peas and corn packing plant in Sleepy Eye, Minn.
Bob Nichols | USDA via Flickr file

Updated: 7:55 p.m. | Posted: 4:08 p.m.

Del Monte Foods has told state officials it plans to close its peas and corn packing plant in Sleepy Eye, Minn.

The California-based company says layoffs of more than 360 employees will begin around Oct. 21 after the current packing season and last through the first half of 2020.

Del Monte says the action will affect 69 full-time and 294 seasonal employees. The Sleepy Eye facility was established in 1930.

In its notice to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Del Monte said the employees are not represented by a union.

DEED said it plans to have its Rapid Response Team help laid off employees to find other jobs.

Sleepy Eye’s Mayor Wayne Pelzel said the plant is one of the biggest employers in the city of about 3,500 people.

"Certainly, this has ramifications for a lot of our businesses and schools, for just about everything in the community so it's a big deal." Pelzel said the announcement caught him and the entire community by surprise.

Brigid Tuck, senior economic impact analyst at the University of Minnesota Extension, said small communities can find it challenging to replace manufacturing jobs when they are part of the fabric of the community.

"It can take communities a while to figure out, ‘What is our new identity? How do we get new business into town?’"

Area farmers growing crops for Del Monte will also need a new plan.

"With our agricultural production processing, we tend to see much higher ripple effects just because you are using a local product," Tuck said.

In a statement, Del Monte said the restructuring is a necessary to lower the cost of operations.

The company will close another plant in Illinois and sell a Wisconsin facility as well later this year.