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Nestlé to close QW food factory in mid-2022 – Belleville Intelligencer

When the largest food and drink conglomerate on the planet calls you and tells you they’re pulling up stakes and leaving town, you’ve no choice but to be left gobsmacked, says Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison.
The city’s longtime leader said he was gut-punched when a Nestlé Canada official rang him with news nearly 200 employees of the firm’s Sidney Street food service factory would be out of work when it closes in mid-2022.
Harrison told The Intelligencer Friday the closure announcement completely caught the municipality off guard given many believed the longevity of the plant was ensured well into the future based upon the company’s stable presence in world markets since the 1800s.
He lamented the loss of the international firm’s operations in the city as a big blow for everyone from employees to local food suppliers who provide everything from milk and cheese to meats for the plant.
The loss of payroll, municipal property taxes and city services such as water will also leave a big hole in the city’s financial ledger.
“It was a hard, hard hit. Devastating. It was the last thing I ever expected,” said Harrison who was informed Thursday of the pending closure.
“Nestlé Canada called me and told me it was happening. I said, ‘anything I can do to change your mind at all.’ I know COVID-19 has hit hard but I thought the economy was going to recover and come back. Obviously, they think they can produce everything in the U.S. I don’t know if it is all COVID-19 or if there are some politics in there.”
Harrison said his heart goes out to employees and noted the municipality will do what it can to attract a new company to the factory in an attempt to recover some of the lost jobs.
“It’s sad for the people who work there,” said Harrison who is also working the phone lines with senior government leaders in the region as well as Quinte Economic Development Commission.
The plant was originally opened in 1973 and underwent at least two major expansions early in the last decade buoyed by several million dollars in government assistance backed by taxpayers.
Nestlé Canada informed employees and Quinte West officials it is closing the plant and transferring production of its food products to its factories in the United States where consumer demand is outpacing Canadian demand and customers are in closer proximity reducing transport costs.
The Swiss-based food and drink firm, the largest of its kind in the world, did not say whether harsh COVID-19 lockdowns on its restaurant customers in Ontario since March 2020 contributed to the factory’s imminent demise.
“This factory makes dry blend and frozen products for the hospitality and restaurant sector and a large percentage of the products made in Trenton are for export to the U.S. This decision in no way reflects the performance of our dedicated team members who work tirelessly to provide the highest quality products to our customers,” the company said in a statement.
“The foodservice industry is highly competitive and over the years volumes in the U.S. have continually outpaced Canadian volumes, resulting in over 80 percent of Trenton’s annual production being shipped to the U.S. The Trenton factory is part of a North American manufacturing network and the U.S. foodservice factories have capacity to absorb the production.”
Nestlé Canada confirmed the factory “will close in stages with the first products transferring at the end of this year, culminating in a full shutdown by mid 2022. We remain focused on growing the Nestlé foodservice business in Canada and staking out a post-pandemic leadership position in out-of-home solutions. “
“We know this is very difficult news for our employees and the community. Details regarding notice and severance packages, outplacement support and opportunities to apply for other roles within other Nestlé facilities will be provided in the coming months.  It has been our privilege to have been part of this vibrant community and worked alongside the dedicated and talented people of the Quinte region. “
In October 2011, Nestlé Canada confirmed  it received $1.5 million in funding from the Ontario provincial government’s Rural and Economic Development Program for expansion which marked the second major expansion in the Trenton plant.
At the time, Nestlé said it had invested over $20 million in that past year in the Trenton facility.
Nestlé also said it received $1.5 million from the province’s Eastern Ontario Economic Development Fund in 2010.
The government assistance at the time went toward a 30,000-square-foot expansion in the plant’s west end that was to include new production lines in both the frozen and dehydrated food categories for distribution across North America, the company said in 2011.
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