City officials representing the local Chamber of Commerce, city council and economic development agencies convened a special meeting upon hearing of Tyson's decision to close the Cherokee facility. The processed-meats plant is one of three plant closures Tyson recently announced. The company intends to close the plants and transfer some production capacity to other facilities.
Approximately 450 workers will be affected. But the plant closure's impact has far-reaching consequences for the town, which operates two utility plants, a water plant and a wastewater plant – all serving the Cherokee facility.
In a statement, City Administrator Don Eikmeier said, “Obviously, Cherokee is very disappointed with the news of Tyson's closing. That meat plant has been a very important part of Cherokee for the past 50 years. Of immediate concern is the employees and families that are impacted by the loss of jobs. I will be working with the Governor's office, the Iowa Economic Development Agency and others to ensure that all state and federal assistance is made available as soon as possible for them.
“Although this is a major setback for the Cherokee community, we need to recognize that we have an excellent manufacturing facility here in Cherokee,” he added. “Working hand in hand with the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation, the Industrial Corporation, and the Chamber of Commerce, we will do whatever possible to locate a new business or industry in the facility as soon as possible."
Iowa Workforce Development launched its Rapid Response program to help workers who will be affected by the plant closure. The program provides services such as career counseling, access to training and opportunities to certify existing skills.
“The City of Cherokee is coordinating space in the community center for Iowa Workforce Development to staff a temporary office to support the ongoing services offered by the Rapid Response program,” Eikmeier said.
The Cherokee plant, which Tyson Foods leases, will close Sept. 27. The company said factors contributing to the decision to close the facilities included changing product needs, the age of the Cherokee facility and the prohibitive cost of renovations on the plant. The Cherokee plant currently makes deli meats, hams, Canadian bacon and hot dogs.