Montreal's Oreo cookie plant prepares to shut its doors after drawn-out closing

An era comes to an end this month when snack-maker Mondelez International closes its Montreal factory for good.

An era comes to an end this month when snack-maker Mondelez International closes its factory for good

Union spokesman Pierre Grenier says many of the factory's 454 employees had worked at the factory for decades, and news of its closure came as "a blow." (Associated Press)

There was a time when the whole neighbourhood surrounding an east-end Montreal bakery would smell like baking Oreos.

But that era comes to an end this month when snack-maker Mondelez International closes its Montreal factory for good.

Union spokesman Pierre Grenier said many of the factory's 454 employees had worked there for decades, and news of its closure came as "a blow."

"It's always hard, but people have done their mourning," said Grenier, whose union represents building maintenance employees.

The big concrete building in the shadow of Olympic Stadium opened in 1956 and produced more than a billion of the famous black-and-white Oreo cookies each year.

Not the first company to close its doors

The cookie and snack-maker is the latest on a laundry list of companies that have chosen to shutter their Montreal operations in recent years. Old Dutch Foods, Electrolux, Mabe and Energizer Holdings are among the others.

"We hear more about companies who are leaving than those who stay," Grenier said.

But Steve Charters, the co-founder of Made in Montreal, said the city's manufacturing sector is fairly stable, despite some big-name companies pulling up roots.

Charters, whose website promotes locally-made goods, said most of the employers who wanted to move elsewhere for cheaper wages have done so, and the others have good reasons to stay.

He said the sector is a mix of old-school manufacturers such as the nearly 100-year-old Samuelsohn suit company and newer startups led by brewers, distillers and even insect-based food companies.

Sector has 'tremendous potential'

Despite the sharp decline of industrial jobs since the 1990s, Charters believes the sector could be on the cusp of a resurgence in the next five to 10 years.

He said that's due to renewed interest in buying local, a focus on developing environmentally-sustainable goods, and new technologies such as 3D printing that are changing the way products are made.

"It may change, it may look a little bit different than it does today, but we think there's tremendous potential going forward," he said.

Charters also said that while cities such as Montreal are increasingly promoting high-tech jobs, local and provincial governments need to understand that not every citizen will flourish as an app developer.

"They're maybe not the sexiest or newest kind of jobs that people like to push, but they play a very valuable role in employing a diversity of people and employing people of all backgrounds," he said.