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Smucker's closing West Fargo plant; 141 to lose jobs

The J.M. Smucker Co. at 1740 Main Ave. in West Fargo will close April 30, putting 141 people out of work. (Michael Vosburg/The Forum)

WEST FARGO -- The Smucker's sandwich production plant in West Fargo will close April 30, putting 141 people out of work.

The plant at 1740 Main Ave. produces peanut butter and jelly sandwiches called Uncrustables.

"We have made the difficult decision to close the West Fargo plant and consolidate production to our manufacturing facility located in Scottsville, Ky.," said Maribeth Badertscher, vice president of corporate communications for the J.M. Smucker Co., based in Orrville, Ohio.

Tuesday's announcement came as a surprise to Dorinda Anderson, West Fargo business development director.

"We have some calls in to see if there's any way we can change their minds," Anderson said.

"It's kind of a sad day here in West Fargo," West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern told WDAY. "I really feel bad for those employees."

Smucker's considered closing the plant in 2006, but production demands kept it open.

The product was initially introduced in 1997 when business partners Len Kretchman of Fergus Falls, Minn., and Dave Geske of Fargo started MenuSavers. The company produced crustless peanut butter sandwiches called the Roundwich, marketed primarily to elementary schools.

Smucker's bought MenuSavers in 1998 and renamed the product Uncrustables.

Affected employees will be able to apply for open positions at more than 20 Smucker's plants in the U.S. and Canada, Badertscher said.

"There's only one other Smucker's facility that manufactures the sandwiches," she said.

Smucker's opened a new $51 million plant in Scottsville in 2004.

"We felt it would be best to consolidate production to one facility that would help us meet the needs of our consumers and ensure the long-term success of those products," Badertscher said.

West Fargo employees will receive a transition payment, continuation of medical and dental benefits and company-paid outplacement services to assist with finding employment, she said.

"The difficult decision to close that facility was in no way a reflection on the employees at that location or the relationship that we've had with them," Badertscher said.

Manufacturing sector companies have had a difficult year in West Fargo.

In January, wind tower manufacturer DMI Industries cut 60 jobs at its production plant, citing a decline in demand resulting from a depressed economy.

In March, Trail King Industries laid off 36 employees and closed its plant from June 8 to Aug. 3 due to economic conditions.

Twenty-nine positions were cut at the West Fargo-based headquarters of Bobcat in August, part of nearly 450 jobs that the skid-steer loader and light construction equipment manufacturer eliminated in 2009 due to the global recession.