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Gatorade Plant In Pryor To Close

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Gatorade plant in the Mid-America Industrial Park Gatorade plant in the Mid-America Industrial Park
PepsiCo's Regional spokesperson, Pat Burke said plant workers did everything they could to keep the plant open. PepsiCo's Regional spokesperson, Pat Burke said plant workers did everything they could to keep the plant open.
Regular production and shift work ended Thursday, and the final closing is expected in three months. Regular production and shift work ended Thursday, and the final closing is expected in three months.

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

PRYOR, OK -- PepsiCo announced Thursday morning that it's closing its Gatorade plant located in Pryor's Mid-America Industrial Park because of the struggling economy.

The future looked sunny and bright in July, 2006 for the location of the newest addition to Pryor's Mid-America Industrial Park. Gatorade was experiencing lightning bolt growth. In fact, "Mid-America" was exactly why Gatorade chose to invest $180 million into a 1.4 million square-foot facility.

"We've actually doubled the business since 2002," said Gatorade Plant Manager Chris Weber in July, 2007. "We're over a $4 billion business for PepsiCo, and it's just been phenomenal growth. It continues year after year."

Fast forward 3.5 years later, and the optimism is gone.

PepsiCo announced the Gatorade plant will shut down. Regular manufacturing and shift work finished on Thursday, and the 108 employees were notified of the closing in a meeting

The target date for the final closure is expected to be three months from now.

The Pryor Gatorade plant is the largest of nine manufacturing plants around the world. PepsiCo's Regional spokesperson, Pat Burke, says the Pryor plant is the only one closing right now.

Burke didn't exactly answer any of The News On 6's questions but repeated a statement that was in the company's news release.

"With the tough economic condition that we are all experiencing that decision was very difficult and very tough for us. I will say that the employees have done all they can to keep the plant open," said PepsiCo spokesperson Pat Burke.

The Gatorade plant is no stranger to struggle. In October 2008, 22 employees were laid off. And again in December 2008, another 87 received pink slips. 

Pepsico says all of the employees will receive three months and one week of full pay with benefits plus outplacement services. They also say the plant will be maintained until a new tenant can take over.

The Mayes County industrial park has suffered economic blows before. Georgia Pacific, which is a plant that makes paper for wallboards, and aerospace manufacturer Labinal both closed shop in late 2008.

Sanders Mitchell with Mid-America Industrial Park says in 34 years he's seen boom times and bust years, but he says he is confident they will cycle back.

Here is Burke's statement on the closure:

Unfortunately, in the end, based on the economic conditions, we determined we could not keep the plant open.

We are grateful to the Pryor community, the State of Oklahoma and our associates for their support.  This is no reflection of the performance of our associates or the hard work of our community and state partners.

Any time we have to make tough decisions that affect our people, we try to do it with considerable thought and in the most supportive way possible. We are providing extra assistance to try to ease this difficult transition. All employees will receive three months and one week of full pay and benefits and other assistance, including outplacement services and counseling for them and their families.

We are committed to maintaining the Pryor facility as an attractive manufacturing site, so a new employer can move in. We will manage the grounds and equipment for as long as it takes to find a new tenant, and potential employer, to occupy the facility. Additionally, we will meet our 2010 charitable commitments in full, including a United Way commitment of almost $40,000.

12/1/2008 Related story: More Workers Laid Off At Pryor's Gatorade Plant

 

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