The Leamington Chamber of Commerce says it was “completely unaware” the closure of the town’s Heinz plant was being considered.
“You think you can handle most things, but this wasn’t even on the radar, we don’t even know where we’re going," said acting chamber chair Dave Campbell. “The chamber was completely unaware. It wasn’t anywhere on our radar.”
Heinz announced on Thursday it would close the Leamington plant by mid-2014. The move puts 740 full-time employees out of work.
Campbell estimates 95 per cent of the chamber’s member businesses will be affected by the closure.
“It’s going to hurt all of us,” he said. “No one thought that was going to happen.”
Camille Thompson is a bartender at Bedrock's Bar and Grill in Leamington. She estimates that 60 per cent of her clientele works at Heinz.
“Everyone’s affected by this. Generations and generations of people have been bringing their tomato trucks into town every season. What’s going to happen to them?” Thompson said.
She is also worried about her bar.
“Hopefully we continue on. But how do you know what happens in the future? I hope that we’re going to continue on as a bar and keep the business going,” she said.
Tracey Tucker has been working at Heinz full-time since 2009. She and her husband were planning on starting a new business on the side.
That’s not going to happen. The pregnant mother of one plans on moving to B.C.
Meanwhile, her mom and dad, both Heinz employees, are moving to Newfoundland. Her brother-in-law, also a Heinz employee, is moving to Saskatchewan.
Her parents put their house up for sale at 3 p.m. Thursday, 30 minutes after they learned of the closure.
“They want to work really fast, before everyone else does the same thing,” Tucker said. “Heinz was our career. There’s not going to be anything here for us. There’s nothing to fall back on. There is no money to pay for anything.
“We all saw it as our life. We were going to retire here as a family and be together in the same town. There’s nothing here for us.”