January 24, 2012 1 Comment
MODESTO — Dawn Food Products will close its three Modesto manufacturing plants in March, which will cost 265 workers their jobs.
Dawn officials say the closures are part of their corporate plan for “enhancing manufacturing operations and increasing efficiency.”
The Michigan-based Dawn and its predecessor, Bunge Foods, have been making frozen cakes, cake mixes and other dry-mix bakery products in Modesto since 1996. Dawn leases 125,000 square feet in three buildings in the Beard Industrial District.
Layoffs begin March 10.
“Dawn will work with our Modesto team members in the coming weeks to provide useful information, tools and resources that will help people move forward,” said Michelle Fehr, Dawn’s sen-ior vice president of operations for U.S. bakery products. “We remain extremely grateful for the hard work and commitment of all our people during this challenging transition.”
Losing those manufacturing jobs is another blow to Stanislaus County’s already weak economy.
Stanislaus’ unemployment rate tops 16 percent, and another big food processor, the Patterson Vegetable Co., announced that it planned to go out of business next month. The Patterson closure will eliminate 489 jobs.
“Both of those work forces, Patterson and Dawn, are largely Latino,” said Bill Bassitt, who heads the Stanislaus Economic Development & Workforce Alliance.
Bassitt said many of the employees do not speak fluent English, which is going to make it especially hard for them to find new jobs.
“There just are not a lot of jobs now or in the future for semiskilled or low-skilled people who don’t speak English,” Bassitt said. “Everybody knew this day might come. Well, it’s here.”
Bassitt said the alliance has started its efforts to help the displaced Dawn and Patterson workers find ways to meet the minimum qualifications for companies that are hiring.
But that means they must learn English, and Bassitt said it’s difficult to get people in their 50s to return to school.
Dawn officials say they will assist laid-off workers with vocational assessment, retraining, job searches and one-on-one counseling.
Closing the Modesto plants, Dawn contends, will improve its manufacturing efficiencies, better align its resources to meet customer demands, reduce its shipping costs and eliminate redundancies. Dawn officials expect the decision will make it “a stronger, more effective company.”