The announcement Thursday that McCain Foods Canada is closing its Borden-Carleton, P.E.I. french fry facility has left the community in shock.
McCain Foods says production at the Borden-Carleton plant declined by two-thirds over the last decade, making it the company's smallest and least utilized facility in North America.
Workers received the news first-hand at the plant on Thursday.
“Now everybody's leaving pretty depressed,” said John Bryant, a worker at McCain Foods. “You know there's some people got to start over. They been here for 20, 30 years.”
A media release from the company blames a shift in the demand for french fries from North America to other regions, increased efficiency at other plants and a continuous strong Canadian dollar for the closure.
Premier Robert Ghiz called the closure “regrettable news.”
He said there was nothing he could do or offer to entice the company to stay.
McCain Foods was a major employer in Borden Carleton.
The company says it will offer early retirement benefits, severance packages "that exceed regulatory requirements" and will offer retraining options.
'Just a slap in the face' - McCain Foods employee
T.J. Foley, another employee, said people worked hard everyday at the plant. “Just a slap in the face but it's typical for this kind of big company nowadays I guess," he said.
The Prince Edward Island Potato Board called the closure sad news for employees and for farmers.
The 23 growers who had contracts with McCain Foods may have to find new buyers.
Gary Linkletter, chair of the board, says he hopes they can find a way to work with McCain Foods in New Brunswick.
“They have plants in New Brunswick. They have in the past hauled potatoes from P.E.I. to New Brunswick so we'll be talking to them to see if that's still an option or what the future holds.”
'We worked before here. We'll work after here' - McCain Foods employee
Some workers have described the severance package as generous, but say the company has asked them not to disclose details.
“We worked before here. We'll work after here,” said Foley. “It sucks for the moment but we'll figure something out.”
Mayor wants money to go to housing
McCain Foods Regional President of the Americas Frank van Schaayk says the company will work with the provincial government and spend $2 million to create new jobs for the affected employees and to help the wider community.
“I could see giving us some money to buy land for a subdivision,” said Bordon-Carleton Mayor David Sexton. “Many of the workers do not live in the community because we don't have good affordable housing here."
Sexton says he got the news from McCain Foods this morning.
McCain Foods, whose global and Canadian headquarters are in Florenceville, N.B., operates nine processing facilities across the country with about 3,000 employees.
According to the company's website, McCain makes about a third of all the frozen french fries produced in the world.