Elected leaders will try to persuade Tyson Foods to change its mind about closing its Buffalo meat products plant, which will eliminate 300 jobs next year.
But advocates for sparing the Perry Street plant face an uphill climb. Tyson said Friday that facility – along with two other U.S. sites that will be closed – struggled financially for years. And the company cited factors such as the distance of the Buffalo plant from its raw materials supplier in the Midwest, as well as changes in product demand, as other factors.
Assemblyman Michael Kearns, D-Buffalo, said the planned closing of an urban plant like Tyson’s especially hurts working poor people who walk or ride a bus to their jobs. Even if they are retrained, he said, their new employer might be in the suburbs, in a less-accessible location.
“This is going to be traumatic to my district and the people that are going to lose their positions,” Kearns said. He said he spoke to a Tyson representative in Washington, D.C., who told him that logistics – the cost of shipping materials here from the Midwest – was a major factor, along with the rising cost of certain meat products.
Elected leaders said they were disappointed that Tyson evidently did not give officials in the region a chance to help save the plant. They are now either reaching out themselves or calling for organizations like Empire State Development to get involved.
“I’m deeply concerned and very disheartened that Tyson made this decision from out of New York State without reaching out to the city or the state to find out if there was an opportunity to resolve this without hurting 300 families in our community,” said State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo.
“Bottom line is, it hurts,” said Fillmore Council Member David Franczyk. “It hurts us, it hurts the people there.”
Along with the impact on workers and their families, Franczyk said he was worried about what will become of the plant once Tyson closes it. “Are weeds going to be growing up around the building?” he asked.
Mayor Byron W. Brown said he was “disappointed and concerned regarding the loss of 300 jobs.” And Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said that for more than a decade, “the hard work and dedication of hundreds of Western New Yorkers have contributed to the growth and expansion of the Tyson Foods brand.”
While the plant is a significant employer in Buffalo, it is a small piece of Tyson’s empire. The company has about 115,000 employees around the world, and Monday, the company reported fiscal third-quarter net income of $260 million, on sales of $9.7 billion.
Also Monday, Tyson said it would sell its poultry business in Mexico and Brazil for $575 million. That deal will help pay down debt from another recent mammoth Tyson deal: a planned $7.75 billion acquisition of Hillshire Brands Co. In a statement, Donnie Smith, Tyson’s president and chief executive officer, said the company was “nearing the end of what looks to be the best year in our company’s history.”