The rumor mill is swirling among the food industry, as corn dog manufacturer Monogram Comfort Foods relocates its corn dog production from its Muncie, Ind., plant on East Willard Street, affecting 87 workers. At first thought of a plant closure, the industry freaks.
But, according to Karl Schledwitz, chief executive officer of Monogram Comfort Foods, who spoke exclusively with Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ editor-in-chief Marina Mayer, this transition actually opens doors for additional employee positions. In September 2012, Monogram Comfort Foods purchased Hinsdale Farm, a corn dog manufacturer located in Bristol, Ind.
“When we purchased it, it was our intentions from Day 1 to combine our Muncie operations into the Bristol plant,” Schledwitz says. “It was also our commitment to do the best by our valued associates in the Muncie plant.”
The Bristol facility is 112,000 square feet of robotics and automated equipment; the Muncie plant lacked automation and was significantly smaller with no room for growth. Then, Monogram Comfort Foods completed a $6.5 million capital project in the Bristol plant by adding new freezers, refrigeration systems and packaging lines and upgrading the layout to become more food safety-friendly and to make room for additional capacity.
“In the interim, we were trying to find an alternative use for the Muncie facility. So, when we gave the WARN notice, we were able to announce to the employees that we had leased the facility to a food manufacturing company that was going to retrofit it for something other than corn dog production. The company has not gone public yet,” Schledwitz says. “In addition, we offered anyone a job at any one of our other plants, along with moving and packing expenses. We provided grants to move with assistance, but if someone does not elect to move to the new facility or does not stay on board with the new company, then they will receive a severance package.”
Overall, the combination of the new business coming into Muncie and the new jobs created in Bristol results in a net job creation for the State of Indiana. All of the equipment will begin moving from the Muncie facility to the Bristol plant in the first part of May, and the new company will move in and begin leasing the Muncie plant starting in mid-June, Schledwitz adds.
Once the newly merged corn dog lines in Bristol are in full operation, it will be scheduled to produce about 40 million pounds of product, with capacity to increase without any footprint expansion by another 20-30 million pounds, he says.