Impact of Heinz Closure on Supply Chain Being Studied

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Windsor Star/Sharon Hill

Economic development officials in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are trying to talk to every Heinz supplier to get a better idea of the overall impact of the Heinz plant closure next year and how to help those related businesses survive.

“It’s almost triage,” Tracy Pringle, business retention and expansion director with the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation, said Tuesday.

“Who’s at the most risk, the immediate risk? Are they at risk of closure? Are they at risk of downsizing? What can we do to help them generate new business that can sort of tide them over while we figure out strategies with them to grow their businesses?”

In mid-November Heinz announced it was closing its plant in Leamington next year putting 740 full-time workers out of work. The closure of the 104-year-old plant also affects seasonal workers, about 46 farmers who grew tomatoes for Heinz and suppliers. It has been estimated that for every job in the plant, there were 2.5 to four jobs created outside the plant.

Pringle’s work will better define those numbers and how big the local impact could be. Heinz didn’t provide local officials with information on its supply chain.

She said suppliers include greenhouses which grew the tomato plants before they were transplanted into fields along with suppliers to the plant such as electrical contractors, conveyor builders, warehousing or packaging companies and companies which supplied ingredients other than tomatoes.

“We don’t want to see another 10, 20, 30 closures as a result of the Heinz plant closing,” Pringle said.

Knowing more about the suppliers will help economic development officials seek government help and be better prepared to show businesses looking at locating here the supply chain that is available in the region, she said.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson said council will receive a report Thursday morning on replacing its economic development officer, who retired.

Paterson said the work being done in Chatham-Kent and through the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation will help show the provincial and federal government the other side of the Heinz closure.

Paterson was supposed to meet with Heinz officials last month but because of weather never got to the Toronto meeting. Paterson said there’s been no answers on what the company plans to do with the plant.

A report on the impact on suppliers is expected to be done early in the new year. Companies  that had business with Heinz you are asked to call Pringle at 519-255-9200, ext. 2229, or Kim Cooper in Chatham-Kent at 519-351-7700, ext. 2030.