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Hillshire Brands to close Alabama plant

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hillshire Brands Co. said Friday it plans to close the company’s meat plant that employs about 1,100 people in northwest Alabama, a move that surprised area leaders still coping with the fallout from a paper mill closing.

The Chicago-based company said in a statement the plant in Florence is set to close Dec. 30. Hillshire owns the Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, State Fair and Ball Park brands.

The TimesDaily reported the plant includes cooking operations for breakfast sandwiches and breakfast sausages.

Tom Hayes, chief supply chain officer, said closing the Florence plant was a “very difficult” decision. However, he said the company determined it won’t meet efficiency or long-term profit expectations.

Mayor Mickey Haddock said he was “floored” to learn of the shutdown from plant manager Damien Williams. “I thought everything was running smoothly here,” said Haddock.

The decision was announced about seven months after International Paper said it would close a mill in nearby Courtland, cutting 1,096 jobs.

Hillshire Brands said it will provide severance and other assistance to employees.

The Hillshire plant began operation in the 1930s as Lauderdale Farms, before becoming Florence Packing Co., Bama Meats, Jolly Green Giant, Rudy Farms, Jimmy Dean Foods and Sara Lee. It was sold to Hillshire in September 2012.