US Foods closing local plant

FAIRMONT – Employees at US Foods in Fairmont were informed recently that the local plant will soon be shutting its doors.

The US Foods’ plant in Fairmont – not to be confused with Fairmont Foods – is located at 1500 E. Winnebago Ave. Employees who will remain anonymous have indicated the plant is closing its doors Jan. 31.

Company spokesperson Lisa Lecas issued the following written statement following requests for comment from the Sentinel:

“As part of ongoing effort to maximize operating efficiencies and better serve customers, US Foods will merge the Fairmont, MN distribution center with the US Foods facilities in Omaha, Plymouth and Iowa City. The transition will be carefully managed to maintain the quality and continuity of customer service.

“By transferring the business from the Fairmont Division, the company will increase utilization of our existing facilities and reduce costs by eliminating duplicative functions.

“The US Foods Fairmont Division has notified all impacted employees and is committed to helping them transition to new employment. Severance benefits will be available to qualifying employees who do not find employment opportunities within the company.”

The company did not respond to Sentinel questions regarding how many employees will be impacted by the closure.

“These are jobs that have been in the community a long time, and it’s going to hurt,” acknowledged Mike Humpal, Fairmont’s economic development director and city administrator.

US Foods has only owned the plant since 2012, after purchasing it from Hawkeye Foods, but many in the community remember the years it was known as Draper Foods, from 1978 until its sale in 1999.

Its origins go back even further though, to the 1940s, when it was Earl Draper and Sons Wholesale Food and Beverage. George and his brother Charles divided the business in 1978 into Draper Foods, owned and operated by George and his sons; and Draper Beverage, owned and operated by Charles and his sons.

“It’s always difficult when companies make decisions to consolidate a facility, like the US Foods here in Fairmont, with larger facilities, knowing that it has nothing to do with our excellent work force or business climate as a community,” Humpal said. “It’s a business decision as a company for strictly economic and customer-service purposes. … As a community, there’s nothing we can do to change their minds.”