Oak Farms plant shutting down, laying off 170

Published: Mar. 15, 2013 at 3:06 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2013 at 3:06 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - 170 employees of Oak Farms Dairy in Shreveport will be out of work by the end of May.

Oak Farms, a division of Dallas-based Dean Foods, is located in the former Foremost Dairy plant on Interstate Dr. in West Shreveport.

A spokesperson for the company issued a statement Friday morning:

"Dean Foods informed employees yesterday that it is ending production at its Oak Farms plant in Shreveport, LA.  Production will be phased out over the next two months. Approximately 170 positions will be eliminated, though we will maintain about 25 positions for local distribution and sales. We are committed to helping employees find new jobs during this transition. We will move the current production volume to other regional Dean Foods facilities, and Oak Farms products will continue to be available in Shreveport. We regret the impact that this decision will have on our employees and our community. The decision to eliminate jobs in any part of our business is never an easy one. We operate in a highly competitive marketplace, so we must run our business in the most efficient way possible."

KSLA News 12 received word about the layoffs late Thursday night, but were unable to confirm the report until Friday morning.

According to employees who contacted the station, the last day on the job will be May 14. They were reportedly told that their final checks will include 40 hours of service pay per year of employment, and that they will have insurance until the end of May.

They were also reportedly told Wednesday that the layoffs were a result of the loss of a contract with Walmart.

Dean Foods VP of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Liliana Esposito confirms that it was announced in a February investors call that a significant customer had decided to diversify its supply, and that it did affect production volume at the Shreveport plant. However, Esposito says this decision was not related to any one specific customer or contract.

Esposito declined to identify the "significant customer" that ended its contract with the company.

Area businesses are bracing for the possibility of a negative economic impact following the lay-offs.

"That was surprising. Hopefully it won't be too drastic of a change," said Keyota Singer, a cashier at the popular Monkhouse Seafood Diner across the street know the change will be noticed, especially at the cash register.

"They come over here every morning for their breakfast, and lunch time… they really come for lunch," said Singer.

But Singer is convinced the bottom line will suffer only minimally and points to the stores and nearby airport.

Oak Farms delivers to both Caddo and Bossier Parish schools. Yet, Oak Farms will still honor their contracts to deliver products to the schools, both Sonja Bailes, Bossier Schools PIO, and Victor Marieno, Caddo PIO, say.

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