The Dallas, Texas-based Dean’s Foods announced it will close seven of its plant operations across the country, including the 15-acre Huntley complex and taking with it approximately 130 jobs.
The dairy processing plant and its offices, located at 11713 Mill Street, just east of Route 47, will be shuttered with no firm strategy in place regarding future uses of the structures and property.
Personnel layoffs are set to begin Sept. 14, and will continue through the end of the month. A statement from the company’s corporate offices said the closures were due in part to private label milk production such as Walmart’s 250,000-square-foot Fort Wayne, Ind. processing plant, which began in 2016.
Walmart was one of the company’s largest customers, while local distribution extends to Jewel Foods and Walgreens, as additional retail outlets. The Dean’s Foods product line included ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, flagship brand and private label milk production, along with other dairy items.
The company expected to lose 60 million volume gallons in the last six months of 2018, resulting from production at the Walmart plant. Other Dean’s Foods plant closures are in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Kentucky. The Walmart production caused the cancellation of arrangements last May, by Deans Foods with an estimated 100 dairy farms in eight different states.
“First and foremost, our immediate concern is for the workers that will be losing their jobs,” he said. “While we have not heard from them, or the community, as yet, we are contacting the McHenry County Workforce Network to obtain information and ways to offer assistance, if and when, they do call.”
The Workforce Network, based in nearby Woodstock, is a nonprofit organization. According to its website, “(It) has a variety of programs and services for employers and job applicants seeking assistance in meeting the challenges of today’s job market … to provide a one-stop system for employment related services in McHenry County.
Julie Courtney, the network’s director, said they are working with the state of Illinois on a rapid response program that entails going to the plant location, and talking with the impacted employees about the organization’s slate of services, and what can be done to help them. The network is tentatively planning to conduct the site visits within the next month.
“Right now, it’s about the job loss to our community. Going forward, the village board will decide on the best course for Huntley, and what direction to take,” said Johnson.
The Huntley plant was built in 1945 and took advantage of its location next to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks, with spur lines added later. By the next year, the plant was processing raw dairy milk from local rural Huntley farms, and maintaining a production end for distribution with glass gallon and quart-size plastic containers.
Village officials were notified of the Huntley plant closure at the start of July, and are still in discussions concerning the disposition of the buildings and property, when fallow.
“We have no idea what the loss of revenue will be to the village, and we will spend time looking at that aspect since the plant was a large user of our utilities,” said Village Manager David Johnson. “It’s still early, and we’re looking at the entire facility and how the plant will be left, whether it will be a nuisance site, or not. We have made our expectations clear to them, and they have made their intentions known.”
Requests for comment from the Huntley Dean’s Foods office were referred to the Dallas, Texas corporate communications office. They have not responded.
—Huntley Dean’s Foods Plant to close in September–