Butterball will shutter its Gusto meatpacking plant in Montgomery, Ill., where it employs about 600 full-time workers, marking another painful loss of jobs in the Aurora area.
The North Carolina-based company's announcement comes after Caterpillar announced last month it would close its manufacturing plant in Montgomery by the end of 2018, resulting in a loss of 800 jobs. Butterball acquired Gusto Packing Co. in 2013; now, most of the plant's products will be discontinued after the plant closes on or around July 17.
Butterball said it informed employees of the plant closing Thursday.
"Talk about a very hard one-two punch for all these families," said Chris Lauzen, chairman of the Kane County board, on the timing of the plant-closing announcements. "This is huge. It will be very painful for those families."
Butterball executives said they intend to find work at other facilities for employees willing to relocate, but many likely will be unwilling or unable to make the move. Butterball has plants in Missouri, Arkansas and North Carolina, but no others in Illinois. The employees are not unionized.
"We are committed to retaining as many of our Montgomery employees as possible, and are committed to offering relocation assistance to any of our team members who have an interest in staying with the company and accept an available position at another location," Butterball Chief Operating Officer Jay Jandrain said in an emailed statement.
The plant processes primarily pork products, such as private label and Gusto-branded varieties of bacon and ham. The 260,000-square-foot facility was formerly an independent operation known as Gusto Packing Co., founded in 1972.
It appears Butterball is returning its sole focus to turkey. Jandrain cited the "lack of vertical integration in the pork complex and the weakness in the raw material commodity markets" as reasons for the Gusto plant closing.
The pork products made at the Montgomery facility will be discontinued. The turkey products will be made at other Butterball facilities.
Jandrain said the company will work with local and state agencies to find a buyer for the Montgomery facility.