Saturday, November 1, 2014

Preliminary deal for Heinz plant

LEAMINGTON, Ont.—Food giant Heinz says it has reached a preliminary deal with Highbury Canco Corp. to allow Highbury to acquire its tomato processing plant Leamington, Ont., saving it from complete closure.
Heinz, a major employer in the southwestern Ontario town, announced plans in November to close the facility by late June—putting close to 800 full-time employees out of work.

But Heinz announced today it has signed a letter of intent with Highbury Canco, a Canadian company, to acquire the Leamington facility and to also act as a co-packer for Heinz.
Highbury Canco said it intends to employ about 250 people, plus additional seasonal workers.
The company—made up of yet unnamed investors who came together to form a corporation for the deal—also said it had a growth plan which included “subsequent investment” in the Leamington plant that would lead to more jobs in the future.
Michael Mullen, a senior vice-president with Heinz, said the deal is subject to the successful completion of the full transaction but calls it “great news for Heinz and for Leamington.”
He noted Heinz received many expressions of interest in the facility and said the company is happy it was able to find a “strong new partner” in Highbury Canco.
Highbury Canco spokesman Pradeep Sood said the company will continue to manufacture certain Heinz products, as well as provide some distribution and logistics services to Heinz in Canada.
“In the next few weeks, we look forward to working closely with all our strategic partners, including local farmers, the workforce, the local community, and all levels of government to finalize the agreement with Heinz,” said Sood.
He added the Leamington plant has an excellent workforce and called Ontario farmers among the best in the world.
“We believe that our investment will be the cornerstone to providing Ontario’s agricultural products around the world, not just in Canada,” Sood noted.
“We welcome the prospect of good jobs being maintained at the plant, which has served as the keystone of Leamington’s economy for generations,” said Robert Crawford, president of UFCW Canada Local 459.
Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s minister of economic development, trade and employment, said he’s very pleased that the Leamington plant will be able to continue operations.
Hoskins called today’s announcement “a testament to the world-class agri-food industry in Leamington and the workers, families, businesses, and leadership that support it.”

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