Pilgrim's Pride in Batesville closing; Approximately 400 jobs lost

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) -  Pilgrim's Pride announced Wednesday afternoon they'll be closing the doors on their Batesville plant.

It's unfortunate economic news that Independence County officials hope will turn into something positive for their community in the long run.

"We had heard, Allison, that there was potentially a sale in the offing some time ago," Independence County Judge, Robert Griffin told Region 8 News.

Griffin said Pilgrim's Pride officially announced to employees they'd stop production in 60 days.

"This is a chance for them to consolidate and not really an indication that Pilgrim is in trouble," Griffin said.

He also emphasized this isn't an indication that Batesville is in trouble either, as anticipation of the plant closing resulted in a lot of hard work by the Independence County Economic Development Commission.

"Our commission was proactive in making sure we were in a position to offer incentives to minimize the impact to the local workforce," Griffin explained.

He said that hard work paid off. There's already an interested buyer lined up.

"We understand that Ozark Mountain Poultry is the potential buyer working with Pilgrim."

Ozark Mountain Poultry is located in Rogers, Arkansas.

Though Griffin said because the time frame of when Ozark Mountain Poultry might move in is hard to determine, they'll be working with Pilgrim's roughly 400 employees to make sure they're taken care of.

"All of them will be able to file for unemployment and may have other union benefits that assist them also," Griffin said. "We also are setting up opportunities for job fairs and we're working corroboratively with other officials to create and minimize that impact."

Griffin says if Ozark Mountain Poultry comes in, part of the incentive encourages the company to re-hire Pilgrim's employees.

"We're hope to recover every one of those jobs and to add a couple hundred extra."

Judge Griffin said the incentive package they're able to offer is funded through a county-wide, quarter-cent sales tax that was passed by voters in December of 2008.

Region 8 News will continue to track this story and bring you the latest developments as they happen.

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