218 workers to lose jobs as Greencore shuts RI plant

Eyewitness News Investigates

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – An Irish food company is closing its manufacturing facility in Rhode Island after just three years, putting more than 200 people out of work.

Greencore, a Dublin-based maker of sandwiches and other ready-to-eat foods, told investors this week it will halt “fresh production” at its Quonset Business Park facility on March 25 as part of a broader restructuring effort. The company has repeatedly said the Rhode Island site’s operations were losing money.

“The facility will be retained for potential repurposing,” Greencore said in a statement.

The decision comes roughly six months after an FDA inspection discovered traces of the bacteria listeria at the Quonset plant, leading Greencore to recall sandwiches and seafood stuffing sold by retailers including Target and Hannaford.

Matt Sheaff, a spokesman for the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, said Greencore filed a notice saying 218 employees will be laid off. He said the company has invited DLT to bring Rapid Response services to the location in an effort to help them find new jobs.

The Quonset Development Corporation, which manages the former military base that’s now a hub for businesses, approved a 50-year lease for Greencore in 2014 that included a 25% discount on its rent payments and an additional discount tied to wages. The facility was supposed to eventually employ 370 workers, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee declared that it was “a good day for Rhode Island” on the day the lease was finalized.

David Preston, a spokesman for Quonset, said Thursday the company “receives the same incentives available to every Quonset tenant that enters into a new lease. … Going forward, the company will receive the incentives they are eligible for.” He noted Quonset is still home to more than 200 companies that employ about 11,800 people.

Greencore was established in 1991 when the Irish government privatized the state-owned Irish Sugar Corp., which had been founded in 1926. The company closed its last existing Irish sugar plant in 2005. Its shares plunged this week after it announced the restructuring.Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and FacebookTim O’Coin contributed to this report.

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